JANUARY 3 — “We” can be a couple, a family, a race. But it can also be a country. Everyone.
For all these years since the country was formed, we have been accustomed to the distinctions of “we,” “you” and “they.”
The easiest distinction is using the skin colour. We can't change our skin colours — white, black, yellow or brown — which are determined by our genes. And then we have religions, followed by our languages and cultures, political affiliations and economic disparity.
There will be no end to the divisions if we were to go on further from here. Even our handphone brands and EPL teams we support can create new divisions.
We simply have too many divisions in one single country and under the same sky. We are too engrossed with our differences, thus creating more disagreements that will eventually split us up into factions.
This is not what everyone desires, and should not evolve into unbearable consequences we are going to pass down to our children.
Perhaps beginning with 2018 we will re-position ourselves and put “you” and “me” back into “we,” as we strive to reconfirm our identity.
This doesn't mean we must look and think the same way and are robbed of our right to choose. On the contrary, we learn to accept and transcend our differences.
1. Embrace our diversity
Diversity signifies differences and varieties. However, embracing diversity means we accept one another's differences and not deny them.
Embracing diversity signifies a kind of positive dynamism.
Ever since the Melaka Sultanate, the Rulers had allowed peoples from the Malay archipelago, Middle East, India, China and Europe to congregate in Melaka to do business and set up homes, turning the tiny fishing hamlet into a prosperous international trading hub of those years.
That, was the power of diversity.
2. National identity
Diversity is the foundation upon which identification is built. At the tip of the pyramid is our common object of identification: Our country Malaysia.
So, stop identifying ourselves as “Malays,” “Chinese,” “Indians,” “Ibans,” “Kadazans,” etc.
We should be Malaysians first, and Chinese (or Malays, Indians, Ibans, Kadazans, etc.) second.
There is a whole world of differences between the two. If we identify ourselves as Malaysians first, a consensus is established. But if we identify ourselves as Malays or Chinese first, we will start dividing among ourselves.
3. Unity and tolerance
Tolerance is utterly important, but it is much easier said than done. To stay united, we must first learn to be accommodating and tolerant.
We keep talking about unity but seriously lack the heart to accommodate other people.
Criticising other religions, not respecting other cultures will make us exceedingly self-conceited, failing to see our own problems.
How to be united if we can't tolerate?
4. Empathy and mutual understanding
Don't just look at our own interests but spare some thoughts for other people, too. This is empathy.
Differences in the levels of economic development have everything to do with geographical environment and human conditions. We mustn't think it is only fair if we all start on the same footing.
Helping the underprivileged is the government's duty. But again, being underprivileged or not should never be gauged by our ethnic backgrounds or religions.
5. Freedom and self discipline
Freedom is the mainstream pursuit of modern people. We always say, “I can do anything I like.”
Social media therefore becomes a platform for people to vent their frustration and spawn the seeds of hatred. They not only scold people they don't like, but also their ancestors and religions. And if that is not enough to please them, they will start fabricating rumours to get the whole world to hate whom they hate.
Freedom could be the root of many evils!
Yes, we need freedom, but freedom must come with self discipline. The next time you exercise your freedom, do let it be driven by self discipline, too.
With these few things in mind, hopefully “we” will gradually metamorphose and take shape. — Sin Chew Daily
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.