Happy Merdeka Day - #iheartmalaysia, do you?
I wanted to take the opportunity to wish all my fellow Malaysians here and abroad a very Happy 53rd Merdeka Day and to encourage everyone to participate in the #iheartmalaysia campaign.
However, I got caught up all day yesterday – and all day today – trying to rally up support for the Twitter hashtag and monitoring the tweets, identifying which ones qualify for prizes and then contributing my own Tweets. For those of you who are not in the know, R.AGE – The Star‘s youth platform that I work for – introduced the #iheartmalaysia Twitter hashtag to commemorate Merdeka Day.
We wanted to get Malaysia trending on Twitterverse, and at the same time thought it was a great chance for us to give away some prizes to our loyal fans and readers. You can find out more about the contest here.
But this post isn’t really about the contest. It was originally supposed to be just a Merdeka shout out. However, now that the day is almost over and the contest is winding down, I have had the chance to digest some of the messages sent out in the tweets.
As expected, food was one of the key talking points among twitterers, as was friendship with people of other races. Then there were the expected tweets bashing Malaysia and it’s policies (although it was nice to see many people replying to those messages with a “Don’t blame the country, blame the Government”). Many tweets were of the “#iheartmalaysia but …” nature which I guess is perfectly fine.
For me personally though, what really was interesting was to observe how many people took the opportunity to speak out against many things that have been happening in this country. I don’t mean this in a bad way. However, I have always encourage my friends – both online and offline – to speak out about issues close to their hearts and air any injustice they feel. I say this because that is the only way we can make the country a better place, instead of keeping silent.
I don’t mean for them to be radical but discourse is always good and I always feel that if you don’t speak out, then you become part of the problem.
I’m not sure if it was easy to hide behind the thousands of Tweets that were sent out (#iheartmalaysia actually trended globally and peaked at No.5 – right in the middle of the day in the US, which is quite a feat, if I do say so myself), but I even saw tweets from friends of mine who have previously told me that they were afraid to speak out because they feared invoking the wrath of the authorities. Although I tried explaining to them that if their statements are based on facts, and fair comment, that they had little to worry about (yes, I’m an optimist), they still didn’t do it.
Of course, this was not the intention of #iheartmalaysia at all. But from a personal point of view, I am so glad that this gave them a chance to explore something new. But we can’t take any credit. Perhaps it is the current political climate and societal issues we are facing that had brought out this frustration.
While I often speak my mind on this blog, I also wanted to address the issues as a journalist and took to my The Bangsar Boy column last weekend – a piece dedicated to Merdeka Day – to do it. My intention isn’t to be confrontational – I do believe in discourse – and decided to express my views through examples relating to my own family.
In the article headlined Home is where the heart belongs, I ended saying:
As we approach Merdeka Day next week, and Malaysia Day a couple of weeks after that, I find myself reflecting on what it is that makes me truly Malaysian.
Aside from all the things I mentioned above, I think what strikes me best and is most important is that this country is where I was born, it is where my family is and it is my home â€” and that is where my heart is.
Read the article to find out what “the things” I was referring to are.
I am an optimist and I have great hope for this country. And it is my home, and my life, and that is why #iheartmalaysia.
Happy Merdeka Day y’all.
11.14pm Malaysian time (+8 GMT)