Nationalism turns ugly when the focus is on pulling other countries down.
Come August every year, Malaysians would be urged to fly the national flag to show their patriotic spirit in conjunction with National Day on August 31. Business operators failing to display the Jalur Gemilang at their premises were often admonished by the local authorities.
While every citizen ought to be proud of our country, not knowing the reasons to do so would render such pride hollow. It is like taking pride in one’s race or religion but has no clue who our ancestors are or not practising our culture or faith conscientiously.
Hoisting our Jalur Gemilang and belting out Negaraku with gusto would certainly raise nationalistic spirit. But participating in such flag raising ceremonies does not make the corrupt patriotic.
Likewise, cheering for Malaysians to win international competitions makes us feel nationalistic but not necessarily patriotic. Otherwise, many fanatical supporters have given their patriotism to foreign football clubs playing in the English and European leagues.
Nationalism turns ugly when the focus is on pulling other countries down and this is best exemplified by the current President of the United States, who is far from patriotic as he had brought much harm to his own nation.
Patriotism is beyond a strong but superficial display of emotions. It requires commitment and action that contribute to our country. During peacetime, there are many patriots in our midst, and recognition ought to be given to these unsung heroes.
Those who are productive and contribute to the economy, pay taxes and donate to charity, law-abiding and not corrupt, help the weak and needy, share knowledge and skills, respect fellow human beings, kind to all animal and plant life, do not litter or harm the environment, and practise the 4R (refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle) are patriots.
We can also be patriotic by studying or working hard, keeping ourselves healthy and not be a burden to society or government’s healthcare by avoiding accidents or infections, consuming a variety of foods in moderation, exercising regularly and resting well.
We should go beyond memorising our Rukunegara and schools should organise speech contest for students to share actual experiences on how they have practised or witnessed the tenets of our national philosophy, so that others could learn and emulate.
As courtesy is on display all the time, the results would be immediate when teachers and students behave better and be more polite towards one another. Without showing courtesy, a person is not educated, however learned he or she may be.
Sadly, shallow understanding from rote-learning in schools and plagiarism in tertiary institutions has resulted in a large number of Malaysians unable to go beyond expressing superficial nationalism to genuine acts of patriotism.
The views expressed here are strictly those of The True Net reader YS Chan of Petaling Jaya.