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For the love of tanah airku

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To be caring and just towards others would be a good starting point in the journey to becoming a conscientious and patriotic Malaysian, Mustafa K Anuar writes.

A new programme to inculcate patriotism among Malaysians is being crafted from the ashes of the National Civics Bureau (BTN) and National Service Training Programme (PLKN), which were abolished by the previous Pakatan Harapan government.

The proposed programme, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Special Functions) Mohd Redzuan Yusof said recently, is also created to forge a united nation through the Federal Constitution and the Rukun Negara, which is a good principle.

It raises a few questions, though, as to why this so-called patriotism programme is being resurrected at this juncture, especially since such a programme would be likely to incur a large amount of taxpayers’ money in an economy that is struggling amid a pandemic.

Does this mean, for instance, that the level of patriotism among certain segments in society is considered markedly low for some reason as to necessitate the people concerned to be schooled, if at all possible, more effectively about the virtue of having love and affection for our country?

Or, could it be that the disenchantment and criticism expressed by certain quarters following the sudden change of federal government recently were construed as sentiments that are inimical to the treasured patriotism?

It would be unfortunate if the second scenario is the reason as this would conflate love of the country with support for the government of the day.

While the two may overlap, there are times when they don’t. American writer and humourist Mark Twain said it aptly: “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”

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It is crucial that this vital distinction be made because there comes a time when, for example, criticising the government of the day for having done things that are unfavourable to the concerns and interests of the nation as a whole becomes a patriotic act.

Speaking truth to power becomes a conscionable thing to do as well.

Indeed, criticising the government of the day for the common good of the people should not be regarded as being disloyal to the country as it is also the democratic right of concerned citizens and stakeholders to do so. It also serves as essential feedback for government’s policies.

Furthermore, a sense of belonging to and love for a land is enhanced when citizens are given the opportunity and encouraged to participate in the democratic process of the country.

And this is why if such a patriotism programme was executed, it cannot imitate the old formula of BTN, which was riddled with allegations of racism and the ideology of ethnic supremacy, which are divisive in a multi-ethnic society like ours.

Similarly, blind support for the government, as reportedly encouraged by the disbanded BTN, would be inimical to an enlightened notion of patriotism.

There are, of course, other ways of expressing patriotism without having to go through a structured course, such as the conventional flying of the Jalur Gemilang and serving in the armed forces.

Embracing and celebrating our diverse peoples, cultures and beliefs – which help promote mutual understanding, social cohesion and national unity – is also an act of patriotism. This is especially so in an ecosystem where the divisive politics of race and religion is continuously employed by self-serving politicians.

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People take pride in and love for a country that offers equitable opportunities to gain a good standard of living, wealth, peace, happiness and human dignity.

Protecting the physical environment from the insatiable appetite of certain groups of capitalists, who ravage pristine forests and displace the Orang Asli, is a form of loving one’s country and caring for fellow citizens.

Waging a protracted war against systemic corruption to save our national coffers from being emptied by unscrupulous individuals is patriotic.

Conversely, putting one’s finger in the till is unpatriotic as it harms the overall wellbeing of the country, in case we need reminding.

To be caring and just to others is as good a starting point as any in the journey to becoming a conscientious and patriotic Malaysian.

Source: The Malaysian Insight

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