By Muhammad Faiz
Nationalism, as defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary, means loyalty and devotion to a nation. It is a sense of national consciousness, which refers to the quality or state of being aware especially of something within ourselves. Nationalism is also another synonym for patriotism, which is defined as the love for or a devotion to one’s country.
Entering the big 60th year of our Independence, or as Malaysians call it—‘Merdeka’—we are a decade away from half of a century imbued with freedom. Not only that, we are also two weeks shy from celebrating “Hari Malaysia“. Knowing and acknowledging it makes us wonder how Malaysia has progressed so far especially from the point of view of the millennials and young adults.
It does bring some questions regarding the matter. What do they think of the progress Malaysia has made in these 60 years? What are their thoughts? Most importantly, what are their hopes for the upcoming decades of Merdeka? Thus, I took it upon myself to ask a selected few young adults these nine questions.
1) What are your thoughts on Malaysia’s development since August 1957?
Nukman, 21 shares with IIUMToday about his thoughts on Malaysia’s development since Merdeka especially in the economic, social and political sectors of things. Year by year, he said, the government brings Malaysia one-step closer to the future by applying some new changes with the purpose of bestowing comfort towards the people.
“I would say we have improved a lot in terms of our infrastructures, technologies, education, community, creative and arts industry, sports and much more. However, it is still not fully developed especially we have economic and politic crises lately, but let us acknowledge that our country has improved a lot since our first Independence Day,” Fazirah, 21 explained to IIUMToday.
Syahir, 21, also believes that since our Independence, many things have changed. Our economy is growing rapidly as we can see many developments taking place in urban as well as rural areas. However, it is most important that we maintain the harmony in this country, a country interlaced with multiple races.
“I don’t understand much about how Malaysia has developed economically from the statistical point of view, but coming from a layman, I did see an imbalance power of market holder. However, Malaysians have become more knowledgeable, intellectual, and tech shrewd, except for manners,” Ahwar Muhali, 21 said.
2) In your opinion, what are the major changes that have occurred since our country’s Independence?
“For me, the very major changes that Malaysia experienced is technology. Malaysia has now become one of the many countries that have a rapid growth in technology and can challenge some countries in terms of achievement,” Nukman added.
Fazirah personally thinks that our infrastructures and technologies have a major influence in our country’s development. Take a look around and we will find that there are numerous facilities here and there. Although it is not holistically developed, we are moving towards it.
As for Ahwar, he is impressed with the current increase of young entrepreneurs, the ascension of creative youngsters, and the overloaded of unfiltered information we’re witnessing around us.
“From my perspective, I think Malaysia’s socioeconomic status is the major change that can be observed since Independence. Before 1957, Malaysia was a low-income agrarian economy, which depended only on rubber and tin production. As time passed, our economy has diversified beyond agriculture and primary commodities. Back in the 1970s, our government has introduced economic development strategies – the New Economic Policy (NEP), the National Development Policy (NDP) and the National Vision Policy (NVP) – in order to improve our socioeconomic status. As we can see today, Malaysia is one of the fast developing countries,” Syahir explained.
3) What aspects do you feel are still lacking in our country based on your opinion?
Nukman believes that one aspect that Malaysia still lacks is the economy, as we experienced a large scale inflation. It also caused the falling value of Ringgit Malaysia (RM). Thus, for Nukman, it is important for the government to think of new ways to solve the problem.
When asked about the things that our country still lacks, Fazirah feels we are in for development from social perspective. She believes we are still confronted with problems revolving around racism. All of us play an important role in facing the issue of racism. Of course, it is challenging since we are a diverse community, but consideration and respecting one another can be a great initiative to live as a collective whole, as true Malaysians.
Syahir also supported Fazirah’s statement by saying “It cannot be denied that unity is the main reason how we obtained our Independence and this issue was undebatable back then. However, things have changed today. We could see people disunited by their political ideologies. There is nothing wrong with believing in different ideologies as long as it is not deviated from its main objective – to make Malaysia a better country.”
“Our people still lacking in manners, honesty, integrity, responsibility, love, and spirituality,” Ahwar honestly expressed his thought.
4) How do you think Malaysia is doing in this current situation?
“I believe Malaysia can challenge much bigger countries and can surpass other countries if the government along with the people work together and harder to make sure Malaysia is standing in the eyes of the world,” Nukman said.
“I think Malaysia is a unique country where we have our own specialities, such as the diversity in the community and also our natural resources. Also, Malaysia is still a developing country which means we still have a lot of things to improve and we need to work harder collectively to achieve our goals,” Fazirah added. Ahwar went on to say, “Holistically, Malaysia is just about to become a well-fresh developing country and will continuously grow.”
“I can see Malaysia is bringing improvement for its economy. I cannot deny when some people said we are a little bit struggling with our status of the economy. However, I know the government is doing their best to improve and maintain the stability of our economy,” Syahir told IIUMToday.
5) What are your hopes for Malaysia in the upcoming years?
It is Nukman’s hope for Malaysia to work harder to solve its problems whether they are minor or major. Most importantly, we need to protect the country from those who can cause harm to it. It is only because of the effort of our predecessors that this country is safe and secured. It will be a waste if we do not protect it.
Fazirah went on to explain that she expects to have more creative, mature and accountable leaders among our young generation who will lead the country in the future. This is not to say that our current leaders are not good. Most of them do their jobs pretty well. But she personally thinks we need fresh ideas and opinions from younger generation. In addition, as someone who loves the arts, she really hopes that our country will value and acknowledge the importance of artistic fields in our country’s development.
“I hope for the upcoming years, Malaysia could be one of the developed countries compared to other countries. To have a stable job and knowing that there is a high level of employment in your country is a great news. In addition, I also hope that we as a Malaysian could avoid any conflicting issue such as racism,” Syahir added.
As for Ahwar, he hopes that Malaysia will be a country full of harmony and upholds religion. Besides that, he also hopes for free university or tertiary education that can benefit many students.
6) Do you think teenagers, millennials or young adults care about the progress of our country?
“I do believe and think that the youth nowadays really care about our beloved country, Malaysia,” Nukman expressed. Besides that, Fazirah also supports the statement.
“Frankly speaking, some millennials nowadays do concern on our country’s progress and some are not. For millennials who are really concerned about the development in the country, I think that is because they have a long vision of what could happen to this country in the future,” Syahir said. Coincidentally, Ahwar also supported the notion.
7) If they are, what kind of things do they tend to focus on?
Based on Nukman’s opinion, he believes that the people tend to focus more on sports, especially seeing how we are just fresh from the SEA Games these few days. He further explained that, despite the differences that exist between the people in our country, it is during this period when all people are united to show support for their country.
“It is different to each of the person,” Fazirah shortly answered.
“I think they’re focusing on the economic stability (especially our currency), government’s policies towards them, living expenses, and chances provided by market holders for them to improve their life through jobs and payments,” Ahwar explained.
8) How do you keep up on the news regarding our country?
“For me, I keep up with news by reading the newspapers as it is easily reached and affordable at its best,” expressed the not so technologically perceptive Nukman.
“I used to join different programmes in order to keep up with current news. Not to forget, using social media as a platform to gain new information and knowledge about Malaysia,” Fazirah and Ahwar told IIUMToday.
Syahir went on to answer, “I keep up on the news regarding our country by reading online news, WordPress, as well as social media. They are the best medium today since they are fast, brief but filled with information you need.”
9) Is it important to keep up with the news? If so, why is it important?
Nukman reiterated the importance of being aware and keeping up with current news by saying it will help us to prepare if anything happens. It is important to be adaptive to any changes.
“Of course it is important to know about our own country, a place where we belong to. As an individual, we can make use of the opportunity provided by our country for self- development, for example, the scholarships and public facilities. In return, it is to improve our own country by giving fresh ideas and solutions for the betterment of our community,” Fazirah added.
“It is important to keep up with the news because you can get so many information regarding your country’s economy, social, sports and more. It is so embarrassing when some people randomly ask you about your country and you cannot answer it. To know about your country is very important as a citizen because it is one of the indicators how patriotic you are,” Syahir told IIUMToday.
Ahwar went on to express his concern by saying, “Personally, it is important for me because I have to be keep on updated with government policies towards youngsters in every aspect, changes in technology, education, economy; for me to prepare and plan my future, and to always keep myself on track, in achieving my goals.”
From these different points of views, it is nice and reassuring to know that we indeed have a good batch of young people who do care about the progress that our country has made.
This goes hand in hand with a quote by Maureen A, Sedonaen. “Youth involvement has moved forward. It is no longer seen as a rebellious act, the way it was a few decades ago”.
By getting the youth involved in our country’s affairs, it will no doubt benefit the society just as what Hans Bernard once said, “We all benefit by having young people exposed to the ‘way things are done’ in a democratic society. Is not it time… to ‘tap the power of youth?’” ***