What does Merdeka means to Malaysians? I guess different group of people will carry a different meaning of Merdeka with themselves.
Soldiers and their families who have fought in the Second World War and during the Communist Insurgency War; Merdeka means a huge victory to them.
For some workers or slaves who have been mistreated by the colonial powers; it may mean freedom from slavery or better hope of a future for them.
For statemen, who have advocated for independence, it shows the capability of the locals to lead a nation.
For the general public, it means a creation of a country that is governed by their own people and belongs to them.
But what does it mean to the younger generations of today? Some may disagree with me, but I think the youth no longer shares the spirit of Merdeka compared to the elders. Today, lesser youth expresses the love for their country anymore. Many don’t bother about the Merdeka or Malaysia Day celebrations.
One of the obvious reasons is probably these youth are born decades after the nation achieves its independence or when Malaysia is formed. They have never experienced the enthusiasm and excitement when the whole country shouted “Merdeka” with the then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. The youngest group who have seen the event at that time might have been at least 60 years old now.
And the youth before Merdeka might have took part in the struggle to fight for independence, while the youth of today need not worry about the problems of colonialism.
Today we only manage to see that historic moment captured in history books, newspapers, articles and probably the most interactive is the short video clip of Tunku Abdul Rahman shouting “Merdeka’.
Very few are actually proud of their National Anthem, the Jalur Gemilang, National Flower and other national symbols of Malaysia. Worst is some may even misunderstand that these national symbols are related to some politicians that they dislike and thus refuse to respect the objects used in the Merdeka celebrations.
Literally, the younger generations of today are not instilled with the spirit of Merdeka within them. How many actually celebrates Merdeka as a patriotic day or do they celebrate because it is a holiday? Some may share patriotic greetings and wishes; but how many does that because they feel it or because their peers do so? With politicians creating a big fuss over the difference of the national day theme between Federal and State Government; they are making it worse.
As the leaders of both political divides keeps on politicizing issues even of the National Day, perhaps the youth should take the lead to build and instil the spirit of Merdeka in ourselves. We need to craft a new spirit and a new meaning of Merdeka for this group of youth as they are seeing things differently. We need to redefine a new value of patriotism for the youth. And with these values; we must create a better nation.
This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 28th August 2015.