Archive for January, 2012

24
Jan
12

NATIONAL IDENTITY

 

Consolidating our

 

National Identity

 

IDENTITY is what makes people recognisable as individuals through particulars in their physical make-up, family and educational background, career and professional status as well as talents and skills. It is these markers or attributes that define an individual’s values, personality and character, all of which contribute towards his or her self-esteem and worth.

A family group or community with clear conceptions of its interests and affiliations will reveal its own unique identity which will in turn influence the individual members of the group. Today there are numerous socio-cultural groups and NGOs each claiming to have its own identity informed by its own mission and objectives.

A community of people of the same ethnicity or faith will share the same cultural and religious values, customs, ceremonies and symbols which give them the sense of belonging and distinguish them from members of another community. Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Baha’i faith and other faiths each have their community of adherents united by a set of common beliefs and pride in their identity.

When we talk about national identity, the first word that comes to mind is “Malaysian” and the attributes of being one. While words such as “Malay”, “Chinese,” “Indian”, “Kadazan”, or “Kelabit” denote our ethnic identity as members of the community of Chinese, Dayak or Kelabit etc. “Malaysian” refers to our nationality and national identity as part of the larger citizenry. Implicit in the concept of national identity are attributes such as patriotism and nationalism which can be defined as follows:

— National identity is a sense of belonging to one state or one nation, a feeling one shares with a group of people.

— Patriotism is the devotion to or love for one’s country.

— Nationalism is the collective identity – a “people” must be autonomous, united and express a single national culture.

The local discourse on nationhood and identity has tended to highlight the academic, political and authority-defined concept of national identity developed from interpretations of official statutes such as the Federal Constitution; or the state-defined principles of nationhood in the Rukunegara, the economic ideology of Wawasan 2020 and its politically-informed concept of a Bangsa Malaysia as well as the more recent promulgation of the all-encompassing notion of One Malaysia.

In Shamsul AB: His Observations, Analyses & Thoughts (2011), the writer argues that the national discourse on national identity needs to take into account not only the voice of authority but more significantly, the voice of the people who express their “everyday-defined” socio-cultural realities and moral concerns. Only then will the views of all the communities in Malaysia be heard and matter in a world and a nation that is developing a “second-generation nationalism which is more positive, proactive and forward-looking. It has a programmatic plan of action articulated in realpolitik which has, in the Malaysian case, emerged not only from a histori-cal context of anti-colonialism but also in the post-colonial era …” (pg 13).

To substantiate repeated calls by the voice of authority telling us to be patriotic, we need to feel the sense of a Malaysian identity and belonging for ourselves. We need to convey our pride in, as well as our fears and wishes for the country we pledge allegiance to. We cannot simply be told that we have to be loyal; we have to feel this in our hearts.

It is with these considerations in mind that we should support more public dialogues where issues surrounding the individual and his identity within the community and the nation are discussed openly and honestly. It is time for Malaysians of all ethnic backgrounds, cultures and religions to come to the fore and engage one another in meaningful dialogue. It is only by confronting our socio-cultural bigotry and prejudices and talking about them that we will come to understand why they exist in the first place. It is only through a process of sharing our knowledge and experiences that we can understand and accept one another’s differences. Only then can we work towards consolidating our national identity.

The Intercultural Dialogue to be held on Feb 1 is one such platform which deserves the support of the voice of the people and the ears of authority. With its aim of being egalitarian and fully participatory, participants will have the opportunity to voice our concerns about our cultural, religious and national identity in an interactive setting. Its objectives – to promote an open and honest sharing of intercultural experiences; to share knowledge and information about our ethnicity, culture and religion; to define binding elements in the national vision and Malaysian identity; and to explore the idea of a national identity index – will allow for the “moral concerns of real people” to inform the authority-oriented discourse on national identity.

22
Jan
12

FOLK HERO

 

 HANG TUAH – A FOLK HERO

A folk hero is a type of hero, real, fictional, or mythological. The single salient characteristic which makes a character a folk hero is the imprinting of the name, personality and deeds of the character in the popular consciousness. This presence in the popular consciousness is evidenced by mention in folk songs, folk tales and other folklore. Folk heroes are also the subject of literature and some films. Although some folk heroes are historical public figures, they generally are not. Because the lives of folk heroes are generally not based on historical documents, the characteristics and deeds of a folk hero are often exaggerated to mythic proportions.

 
The folk hero often begins life as a normal person, but is transformed into someone extraordinary by significant life events, often in response to social injustice, and sometimes in response to natural disasters.
 
Every country and every culture has its own folk heroes who uphold the customs and traditions of the country/ culture which embody its moral vaues and notions of good and evil.
 
One major category of folk hero such as Robin Hood is the defender of the common people  against the oppression or corruption of the established power structure. Members of this category of folk hero often, but not necessarily, live outside the law in some way.
 
* Adapted from Wikipedia
09
Jan
12

SIMPLICITY & PRUDENCE

TOWARDS SIMPLICITY & PRUDENCE

REDUCE THE PUBLIC EXPENDITURE ON UNNECESSARY PRESENTATIONS AND  PROTOCOL

On 23 April 2001 in a feature article entitled Of Titles and Trimmings I wrote:

We hope that the Malaysian love for protocol and decorative officialdom will give way to simplicity and prudence, better time and budget management. For despite appeals for less protocol at government and corporate functions, Malaysians still go overboard with unnecessary trimmings.

 What is it about our Malaysian deference that makes us invent unnecessary protocol to segregate the plebeians from the titled members of society? Do we have to literally stretch our budi bahasa to acknowledge every Tun, Tan Sri, Datuk, Toh Puan, Puan Sri and Datin in the audience? Would not the all-inclusive Tuan-Tuan dan Puan- Puan be more reflective of the egalitarian social order – keadilan dan kesaksamaan – that we vow to uphold?

 Have we become a nation and a people that by virtue of some ill-founded traditions cannot be simple in our approach to work and play? Are we a society that, having thrown off the ghosts of feudalism and then colonialism, is still haunted by their contrived hierarchies?

Ten years on, we still do not see a transformation in attitudes towards hosting and hospitality, especially in the government departments and agencies entrusted with the management and disbursement of public funds. We still witness elaborate song and dance shows, smoke and  laser displays and bursts of fireworks and confetti – all quite irrelevant to the event at hand but deemed necessary to impress the royal guests or VVIPs in attendance; all unnecessary spending of the rakyat’s hard-earned money.

It does not help that today, savvy events organisers have wrested the role of the in-house organising committees to manage their department and company functions  for a very steep price indeed. Glib MCs, popular bands, celebrity crooners, fancy decorations and door gifts have taken the social scene by storm – all supposedly crucial in image building. The guests are then treated to horrid performances   and bad presentations factored surreptitiously into exorbitant costing. The general thinking is that Malaysians love to be entertained.  

What does it take to convince us to change our ways? Can we really change, when what we hear do not tally with what we see? The government’s repeated calls for innovations and  transformations to be made in the key sectors of the nation’s impressive development plans, for  greater planning in budgetary matters, for more prudent spending of private and public moneys seem futile when what the people see are lavish spendings around them. While the talk is of equalising society and closing gaps and chasms, the walk is on posh red carpets and in plush watering holes.

It appears that the disparities are getting substantially more glaring as the hierarchies of titles and honorifics become more contrived and entrenched in the social order. The talk of democratic and egalitarian principles of putting the rakyat first is drowned by the intrusive walk of bodyguard upon bodyguard and the screeching siren of outriders all warning us that all is not equal in the land of Malaysia.

What can we do to convince the public relations agencies and protocol departments and officials not to be overenthusiastic about their role and responsibility, that protocol is after all a function of the society and a reflection of its values. Granted, respect must be accorded the guests of honour be they royalty or eminent members of society. In the book Malaysian Protocol (1986) the writer Datuk Abdullah Ali painstakingly details the administrative machinery and social hierarchies at the Federal and State levels stemming from the ranks, titles and honorific bestowed on the people. He says on page 24 “If you are a good host, everyone that you invite matters. This is especially so in this country with all the titles and ranks: the Tunkus and Unkus, the Tuns and Tan Sris, the Dato Seris and Datos, not to mention the Ambassadors, Generals, Admirals, Commissioners and Superintendants, Chairmen and Managing Directors etc and etc. All these people know their station in life and expect to be accordingly treated.”

Protocol in simple seating YES, but perhaps not in fancy trimmings where the host feels obliged to mention each one by title and name, or greet them with kompang and drum beats or give them expensive cenderahati.        

The Sultan of Selangor’s recent call for less extravagance in organising public events and functions must be heeded by all including the other royal houses. What better counsel than Tuanku’s suggestion that a good book has greater value than any expensive gift, or that celebrity MCs and entertainers are an unnecessary waste of public money?  What greater wisdom that to encourage prudence in public spending and protocol among Tuanku’s subjects?

As the Quran 25:67 says “And [they are] those who, when they spend, do so not excessively or sparingly but are ever, between that, [justly]moderate”

 

07
Jan
12

INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE

PCORE                                                         YAYASAN 1MALAYSIA

            INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE

             Towards Greater Awareness:

Community Identity & National Identity

       Date: Wednesday 1 February 2012

                       Time: 9.00 – 4pm

     Venue: Institut Integriti Malaysia

 

Introduction

Implicit in the concept of national unity is the belief that there is a common path – one that holds shared values and aspirations among people of diverse socio-cultural orientations. The journey towards unity and its twin concept of peace is best undertaken when people accept one another’s differences and strive to define their common goals as a nation.

Building a national identity must necessarily be seen as the process of consolidating our multiple identities as individuals and as members of the groups we belong to – be they ethnic, community, religious, professional or political. What better way to forge greater understanding than to engage one another in open and honest ways, with empathy and compassion?

While fulfilling our roles and responsibilities within our own communities, we are contributing to the nation in constructive and resourceful ways. While we are proud to uphold our cultural and religious values and traditions, we stand tall in upholding the honour and integrity of our national identity.

We are secure in our identity as Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans, Kadazans, Dayaks and Eurasians etc, as followers of Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and the Baha’i Faith etc,  just  as there is solidarity in our identity as Malaysians! 

 

Objectives

  • to promote an open and honest sharing of intercultural experiences
  • to share knowledge and information about our ethnicity, culture and religion
  • to define the binding elements in the national vision and Malaysian identity
  • to explore the idea of a national identity index

 

PROGRAMME

8.15AM – 8.55AM: REGISTRATION

9.00AM – 9.15AM: OPENING ADDRESS

                           HRH Raja Zarith Sofiah Binti Almarhum Sultan Idris Shah

9.20AM – 9.40AM: Community Identity and National Identity: An  Overview

                  Professor Chandra Muzaffar     

9.45AM – 10.00AM: Identity: A Personal Perspective

                                  Datuk Faridah Merican

MORNING COFFEE 

 

 

10.15AM – 11.00AM: ICEBREAKER

                                        Sharing Intercultural Knowledge and Experiences

 

11.05 AM – 11.25AM: Knowing Your Roots

                         Dr Asma Abdullah

11.30AM – 1.00PM:  CIRINI BREAK-UP SESSIONS

                                      Cultural Identity, Religious Identity, National Identity

LUNCH 

2.00PM – 2.30PM: CIRINI FINDINGS

2.35PM – 2.55PM: Exploring  a National Identity Index

                    Datin Halimah Mohd Said

3.00PM – 3.25PM: KEYNOTE ADDRESS

                                  YB Datuk Seri Idris Jala

3.30PM – 4.00PM: *CLOSING ADDRESS (to be confirmed)

                                YAB Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak    

TEA

 

REGISTRATION FORM

 

Name/ Designation……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Organisation/ Institution……………………………………………………………………………………………….

Postal Address……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Mobile Number……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

E- mail Address…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Fax Number……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The completed form must be faxed or emailed by

Friday 20 January 2012

Fax: 603 – 77704568

Email: yuenling@yayasan1malaysia.org  

For further information call

Halimah 012 2921192, Alice 019 3527789, Dr Asma 012 2013201

 




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