‘Merdeka’, Merdeka

As it goes, we were colonised by the British, then the people of Malaya got together, Malays, Chinese and Indians, formed the Perikatan Alliance comprising of UMNO-MCA-MIC, negotiated with the British, and consequently on the 31st of August 1957, Malaya gained independence.

This is of course an oversimplification of what happened, but basically that’s the story. Many see this as the common history, a story unfolding, and the chain of events that happened in the past.

This is true, but also necessarily inadequate. This ‘history’ did not just happen, as if an evolutionary happening of events and negotiations running its course, and at the end of it independence was achieved. Still it is in accordance with the understanding of this ‘history’ that we are now celebrating, or signifying our independence from the British 52 years on.

Every expression of a verbal intention takes place within a certain paradigm. This includes ‘Merdeka’. Such an expression of “Merdeka” did not actually constitute our aspirations and ideals but was actually at that time a construct of a political socio-economic environment of an imperial nature.

It was a “Merdeka” that constituted racial based politics, sightless liberal democracy, supremacy of the nation state, ambivalent capitalism and segregation of the physical and the subjective self, within the individual as well as within society. Hence every year on the 31st of August, we indulge ourselves in this constitution of “Merdeka”, glorifying the achievements and everything else that “Merdeka” promised.

That was what was given to us, that was what we inherited, that was what we perpetuated, and that was what we celebrated, and is still, what we celebrate. Come tomorrow, again we will indulge in delight and fascination our achievements, in the backdrop of progress as embodied in the twin towers.

If only “Merdeka” was Merdeka. When only can we construct a reality of our own, one that truly reflects our diversity and hopes? We are but only a nation of lost souls.

Happy Merdeka Malaysia

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