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Loyalty and the Jalur Gemilang

The Malaysian flag is the symbol of the Malaysian people, who thus have the right to fly or not fly it; however, those who choose to fly it, and then desecrate it, have to accept the consequences.

Written by johnleemk on 3:02:04 pm Jul 20, 2007.

Malaysians are oddly fond of harping on external displays of emotion and belief. While in this sense, they are no different from any other nation on the planet, it is nevertheless consistently disappointing to see Malaysians, regardless of their political persuasion, fall for the falsehood that external facades matter more than what truly lies in our hearts.

Our 50th national day, as we all know, is approaching in just over a month. Around this time, it is par for the course for some minister or other politician who thinks they need a little limelight to declare that not enough Malaysians are flying the Jalur Gemilang.

Depending on how much of the limelight they want to hog, they may resign themselves to asking for Malaysians to voluntarily fly the flag, or demand that more public funds be wasted on yet another campaign to fly the flag.

Those who want Prime Minister-level attention, though, can always count on accusing the Chinese of being disloyal by not flying the flag (one wonders what these people make of the fact that 70% of those who have cancelled their Malaysian citizenship in the past decade are Malay), or demanding that laws be passed requiring for all business establishments and/or homes to display the national flag.

One wonders who all these people are fooling. Do they really believe Malaysians will suddenly love the country more if they fly the flag? It is quite relevant to quote Lim Keng Yaik here:

Flag-waving and singing the Negaraku are rituals, while true love for the nation lies in the heart.
In the first place, I would argue that we have too many flags around. There are far too many unpatriotic Malaysians flying the flag.

Every time I drive around the old town of Petaling Jaya, it is extremely depressing to look at the flags on display outside businesses and homes. Most of them are blackened with dirt and torn and tattered — one suspects that these have seen more than just a couple of national days come and go.

It is one thing to not fly the flag, while loving the country. It is a completely different thing to choose to consciously fly the flag, and then proving that you don't love the country by not giving two hoots about maintaining the national symbol.

There isn't a true, all-encompassing test which can prove loyalty to the country. There are small, piecemeal tests such as looking at those who have received the greatest honour the Malaysian government can confer — the list of recipients may surprise you.

However, there are conclusive tests which can easily show who does not have any loyalty for the country. Simply make those who talk about loyalty put their money where their mouth is.

To those of you demanding that we fly the national flag to prove our patriotism, let me ask, do you fly the national flag yourself? Do you keep it in a dignified condition, or do you just raise the banner and forget about it, leaving it to rot?

And if you are a leader, I don't even have to ask you anything. All I have to do is look at whether you are concerned more about seeing more Malaysian flags fly, just for the sake of flying them, or whether you are equally concerned about treating this simple national symbol with the respect and dignity it deserves.

The national flag is an embodiment of the Malaysian people; it symbolises us. If we choose not to fly it, that is our choice, because it is our symbol. But if we choose to fly it, and then desecrate it, and encourage further desecration by calling for more people to hoist the flag, without caring about whether they will or can accord it the dignity it demands, then we have dishonoured ourselves.

This isn't something difficult to understand. Every boy scout knows it. So why can't our half-assed politicians appreciate that although we have the right to fly or not fly a symbol of our nation, we cannot choose to fly that symbol and later soil it?