Today’s struggle for ‘Merdeka’ is about breaking free from the shackles of intellectual oppression that restrict our judgement, says Syerleena Abdul Rashid.
The meaning of Merdeka carries a lot of weight and importance to many in this country. You see, for most of us, Merdeka means more than just another anniversary of Malaya’s independence from the British colonialists.
For decades, Malaysians (even our brothers and sisters in Sabah and Sarawak) were taught the significance of 31 August 1957. We were taught how many brave Malaysians fought for our country’s independence and the struggles pre-Merdeka society had to endure to achieve this.
Though, the validity of such claims is not without controversy, as one may argue that the Federation of Malaysia only existed in 1963; hence, Malaysia Day is celebrated on 16h September, every year, to mark this significant event. Ironically, this auspicious event was only given the recognition it deserved several years ago; but the significance of Malaysia Day is another issue altogether.
The recent arrests sanctioned by unscrupulous forces, foretells the comeback of a dogma that pays homage to Machiavellianism. This set of ethics permits the use of authoritarian rule that sets out to restrict every single type of freedom that comes with democracy.
The notion of freedom is what we traditionally understand as free will and is after all, ingrained in human nature; therefore, as citizens of a free world, surely, Malaysians must be given the power of free choice and the power to decide for ourselves what we can do and what we choose to become. Malaysians regardless of our ethnicity, gender or background must be given the intellectual autonomy to express ideas without fearing the ‘thought police’.
Political liberty and intellectual freedom can only exist under institutions of a truly free government. In such a system, the freedom to choose differing ideologies is welcomed and these can be debated or discussed maturely without resorting to petty name-calling or personal attacks.
Under a free government, citizens are able to freely voice their concerns, raise questions and simply offer some sort of social feedback aimed at improving the nation as well as the communities that exist within. That said, the recent turn of events only affirms the dystopia our government seeks to create.
Although democracy requires political liberty and intellectual freedom to be included in constitutions in nations that practise such ideologies, in our society, these ‘rights’ are often regarded as taboos that can destroy our peaceful nation. Providing a platform for intellectual discussion and the freedom to speak up against oppression must only be allowed at a level that exudes intellectual depth and sound ethics, in hopes that can create scholarly deliberations.
Such views are required to be in accordance with local laws that exist to preserve harmonious relationships among its citizens and must not be seditious or malicious. There is a line that separates articulation and extremism – which in our country has been crossed too many times by the bigots that run free from the fear of persecution due to their political affiliations.
Freedom and liberty take on many varying interpretations, but what is painstakingly clear is the concept that humans are said to be free when they have acquired enough virtue or wisdom to stand by moral laws and to live in accordance with ethics that are positive to human nature. This takes a lot of personal effort and exists in our intellect, wit and character – something that cannot be removed by intimidation or physical coercion.
Malaysians should embody this concept and stand by one another in these challenging times. Today’s struggle for
‘Merdeka’ is about breaking free from the shackles of intellectual oppression that restrict our judgement. Our struggle is to ensure that our government is able to ensure that both political and intellectual freedom is justly extended to all of its citizens regardless of the ‘political immunity’ some might have. Regulations and laws must never be abused or misused to silence those who may raise thought- \provoking questions.
Humankind, since the dawn of civilisation, has put a lot of value and instigated movements throughout the course of history, based on the value of freedom and the promises it brings. After all, the free human, in any sense of the term, is a master of himself or herself and will not be subjected to the will of others.