05
Feb
12

NATIONAL IDENTITY INDEX

SLIDE 1 EXPLORING A NATIONAL IDENTITY INDEX

 

 

Exploring the feasibility of establishing one.

 

SLIDE 2 NATIONAL IDENTITY INDEX

 

What exactly is an index?

A measure or benchmark to define and gauge compliance with a set of principles or values.

What exactly is a National Identity Index?

A National Identity Index will measure compliance with a set of markers or parameters of national identity that are  agreed upon by the nation’s stakeholders i.e. the people

Many countries have defined for themselves an identity by which their citizens measure their feelings for their motherland or the nation they belong to. US/SINGAPORE/EU

The question is : Is it possible or feasible to get a single measure such as “60% love Malaysia” or “40% are proud of Malaysia” or “50% of Malaysians are patriotic”.

These percentages could be calculated from the answers to a set of open-ended questions such as:

Why do you love your country?

What makes you proud to be a Malaysian?

When outsiders criticize your country what do you do?

which would produce an array of answers or perhaps more questions such as:

I love the choice of food but what is a truly Malaysian dish?

Do the people of different ethnicities really know and understand one another’s cultures? 

Can I be critical of my own country, yet love it and defend it to outsiders.

SLIDE 3 DEFINITIONS

 

Let’s look at some key concepts and what they mean:

 

National Identity – person’s identity, sense of belonging, shared feelings

Patriotism – devotion to or love for one’s country

Nationalism – collective identity, single national culture

Again there are notions within the notion that needs to be defined and described further such as:

sense of belonging, devotion to one’s country, national culture

 

 

SLIDE 4 NATIONAL PRIDE

 

The notion of national pride may mean different things to different people. Those who say they are proud to be Malaysians will usually offer a reason why. They may like the nation’s

  • multicultural living
  • economic success
  • peace and security

I see the notion of sense of belonging as a feeling, one’s emotional response to the environment. In order to feel you belong, you must feel that you are liked and accepted for what you are and respected for what you stand for. You feel this in your heart. Can you benchmark this?

Being a citizen gives you the official external Malaysian identity (blue IC) but knowing or having the soul of a Malaysian is harder to achieve. And what we want to determine is “Can you measure it” ?

 

 

SLIDE 5 NATIONAL IDENTITY INDEX

 

This leads to the question of whether one can list, define and describe a typology (list) of the attributes or markers of a Malaysian identity, or at least identify the parameters within which these attributes/ markers can be found. Having identified a marker such as “feeling of acceptance/respect” or “hospitable and sensible society”, how do you measure them? Would rating them on a scale of 1-10 produce an accurate index? Do you measure the individual’s national identity or that of his/her community?

To ensure the tool or index is reliable and gives accurate results all these questions and more must be answered. The definitions and descriptions of the attributes/ markers/ parameters themselves must be clear and unambiguous to both the researcher and the respondents who must be large enough and representative enough of their various communities.

SLIDE 6 AUTHORITY- DEFINED

In Shamsul AB His Observations, Analyses & Thoughts, Prof Shamsul Amri distinguishes between “authority – defined” social reality and the notions of a nation, nationhood and national identity. The pronouncements, rhetoric and discourse that we are used to reading and hearing are top-down. We are told this and that about our identity by government leaders, politicians and analysts  including the scholars and academicians.

Shamsul suggests that there must also be an “everyday-defined” social reality from the people’s perspective informed by the “moral concerns of real people” – which is what we are all trying to do today.

We are well aware of the official policies, rules and regulations and laws governing the formal identity markers such as citizenship, race and ethnicity, socio-cultural and political deliniations, economic and educational allocations. There are numerous official documents, discourse and political rhetoric for our reference.

SLIDE 7 OFFICIAL EFFORTS

SLIDE 8 RUKUNEGARA

SLIDE 9 CONSTITUTION

 

We are all familiar with several huge efforts by the government to define a comprehensive national vision for Malaysia, the most well-formulated being VIVISION 2020 – introduced by Mahathir Mohamad during the tabling of the Sixth Malaysia Plan in 1991. The vision calls for the nation to achieve a self-sufficient industrialized nation status by the year 2020, covering all aspects of the nation’s life, from economic prosperity, social well-being, educational worldclass, political stability, as well as psychological balance. Spanning development plans over a period of 30 years, the Vision 2020 targets have 8 more years to be met.

Less popular is the notion of Bangsa Malaysia referring to an inclusive national identity for all inhabitants of Malaysia. Mahathir explained it as “people being able to identify themselves with the country, speak Bahasa Malaysia (the Malay language) and accept the Constitution.”[1].

Currently, the all-encompassing notion of ONE MALAYSIA overrides all others in representing the ideals of a nation, nationhood and national identity. Mooted and designed by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak on 16 September 2010 it has become the clarion call for the cabinet, government agencies, and civil servants to focus more concertedly on ethnic harmony, national unity, and efficient governance. It has been popularly picked up by everyone including the one-finger symbol/ wagger that goes with it!

The reference points for these successive albeit intertwined national philosophy/ ideal/ vision are consistently the principles of RUKUNEGARA and the supreme law of the FEDERAL CONSTITUTION.

SLIDE 10 NATIONAL SYMBOLS/ CEREMONIES/ CUSTOMS

SLIDE 11 SLOGANS

 

Accompanying the official pronouncements are the authority-defined national symbols, ceremonies, customs that further enhance and illustrate the spirit of nationhood that Malaysia has determined for its people.

They are grand efforts to inform the rakyat about the roles of the country’s institutions and figureheads and to include the rakyat in the creation of a Malaysian nation.

While some of the more sceptical among us may consider slogans as irrelevant to the creation of a national identity, we cannot deny they stick in the mind and play like an auto-suggestion. In fact they act as a driving force and an inspiration to the majority.

In the commercial world they are looked upon as taglines  such as “Malaysia truly Asia” which are part of the tourism branding process. Can we do the same for national identity?

(refer to the Singapore efforts)

 “Resilient & Pragmatic”, “Efficient & Ethical”

 

 

 

SLIDE 12 PARAMETERS/ MARKERS

SLIDE 13 PEOPLE’S CONCERNS

 

What are parameters and markers you may ask?

They can be seen as a set of measurable factors and can be identified within the boundary that you set e.g individual, ethnic community or nation as a whole

Slide 12 shows a collage of different foods and cooked dishes. So within the boundary of food you can determine a value for each type of food for the individual or group. For example you can measure on a scale of 1-10 the value of nasi lemak or yee sang or dhosai for the Individual, Family, Ethnic Community and Nation as a whole. And you can do the same for each of the more serious societal concerns identified in Slide 13.

So as a researcher if you have listed Equal Opportunities, Meritocracy, Human Rights and Freedom among the markers prioritised by Malaysians you can then proceed to measure the value of each of them for the different groups.

By measuring the value given by each ethnic and religious community, you can total them and average it for the nation. Thus for Equal Opportunity you might get the national rating of 7 and for Freedom, the national rating of 5 – which reveals 2 aspects of the Malaysian national identity and how the different communities measure up to them.

For example, the American rating for Freedom is the highest at 5. while Patriotism is given a mere 2. So what can you conclude about the American national identity?

 

 

SLIDE 14 SOCIO-CULTURAL MARKERS

In Malaysia our identities are very much shaped by the Socio-Cultural Markers identified in Slide 14. We can say that these markers are crucial to the bonding among different groups and communities and can be identified as the common goals of the nation in the pursuit of a national identity.

For instance, there is acceptance among Malaysians of the importance of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language and of English as the second language as we see in the continuous and oftentimes passionate national discourses in the papers, on TV, radio etc on this.

I would like to suggest that a top NI marker should be Bilingualism which I’m sure will receive a high rating across the communities. The supporters of English and Malay are almost equal – which would give the authorities a clear sign of the way to go and the people the motivation to benchmark themselves.

Of much current debate are questions about the nation’s history – what the subject of history entails, what it should comprise, that is what should go into the national school history syllabus and what constitute fact or mere myth and legend.

Sadly, some of our cultural heroes are being debunked as mere myths or legends, removing the dream and imagination that bonded us in the days of old.

Being part Melakan and having Chinese features I used to dream of the romance of Hang Li Po and Sultan Mahmud and that I might be a descendant. Now that Hang Li Po is virtually non-existent, my dreams can only be virtual – on FB or NINITALK perhaps. Or in a novel?

SLIDE 15 HISTORY MYTHS & LEGENDS

 

Again there must be a national consensus mediated by the experts and scholars on who/ what would qualify as fact or myth.

In the earlier segment Dr Asma asked you who you would name as your modern role models and icons.

If politics is harsh and doesn’t always give credit to the nation’s leaders when they are in office or still alive, history is kinder and retrospectively evaluates their contributions in comparison to their peers.

Poor P Ramlee’s real talents were realised only after he died in poverty. Now of course he is Malaysia’s hero of film and song.

 

SLIDE 16 CORE UNIVERSAL VALUES

 

Multiculturalism and multiple identities are not unique to Malaysia. There are many other societies where people of various ethnicities and religions live together in harmony  in a spirit of accommodation and acceptance.  Underlying this are the set of common societal values and universal human values which cut across all communities.

What is of utmost importance is that these values do not just remain at the level of lofty principles, official affirmations and public slogans. They must be  absorbed into the way of life of the people and manifested in their day-to- day behaviour.

Take the notion of “integrity” for instance. It looks simple but is actually quite complex in its permutations of meaning – honesty, trustworthiness, moral uprightness, ethical principles, responsible, steadfast. When talking to different groups of people it is important to explain in ways which are relevant in their lives.

e.g punctuality

SLIDE 17 CORE MALAYSIAN CULTURE

 

What are the things that are important to a Malaysian no matter what community he comes from or what his background is?

What are the main characteristics of a Malaysian? Or what can you identify as the basic (positive) Malaysian national characteristics?

Hospitable, Sensible, Accomodating

SLIDE 18 NEGATIVE TRAITS

 

Unfortunately Malaysians also manifest some undesirable characteristics in their behaviour, among which are the ones listed.

Let me just focus on two negative behaviourial traits  which have serious ramifications in society:

careless, un-civicminded – road accidents, littering and dirty toilets

Daily we read reports of horrendous road accidents, and see pictures of atrocious rubbish heaps and clogged drains – a shocking reflection of the “devil may care” and “don’t care” attitude of Malaysians towards people and their environment.

Do we want this to be picked up by a national identity index?

SLIDE 19 CITIZEN EFFORTS

SLIDE 20 POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS

 

It’s really up to us ordinary citizens to determine the kind of Malaysian we are to one another and to the rest of the world.

Today is one instance where citizen efforts will override government pronouncements as we attempt to define for ourselves – from our knowledge and experience, from our own moral conscience  – the parameters of a national identity

Whether we want to measure or rate it is something to be seriously researched and considered.

SLIDE 21 NATIONAL ICONS

 

Perhaps as an exercise we could start by listing the qualities/ attributes/ markers to look for in a community role model or a national icon that is a person that exhibits the best characteristics of a national identity.

Is it fair to use international benchmarks?

SLIDE 22 NII PROS

SLIDE 22 NII CONS

 

SLIDE 23, 24, 25

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