It just saddens me that it is so hard to be Malaysian, having no choice but to officially label ourselves according to race.
I grew up witnessing Tun Dr Mahathir unveiling one after another of his well-known legacies. As a kid, I used to look highly on him in creating our national identity through the birth of Proton, the naming of our flag, the icon of our capital — KLCC, the modernization in Putrajaya, the Sepang F1 circuit and most of all the 2020 Vision. As kindergarten school kids, we used to have Vision 2020 as a very popular topic for our art pieces. I used to have a lot of fun imagining flying cars, floating skyscrapers and all that. But that was way before I got hit by the reality of the situation of our economy and inability to be competitive in the global market and let’s not forget the fact that we might just go bankrupt before 2020. I didn’t know what politics and propaganda meant back then.
As I looked up to him at that early age, I already had sparks of passion for my country, to see my country succeed in anything and everything we take on.
As a kid, I got exposed to politics by my family members through their dinner conversations, I showed a lot of interest. I learnt that there were such things as UMNO, MCA and MIC. That these guys fight for the rights of their respective races.
I further went to primary school and got exposed to friends of different races for the first time. I still remember telling myself as a 9 year old to look beyond the skin colour, because after all, these are kids of my age, we watch the same Saturday-morning-cartoons, play the same video games and talk about the same things. . Back then, my best friend was an indian and skin colour was a non-issue. I had a blast in primary school with this good friend of mine which I still keep in touch with up til today. Moving on to high school, I had the opportunity to be the class monitor of a class (probably the only one) that has all 3 major races in it. I can proudly say that those were the best years of my high school life. We sang together, laughed together, disliked the same teachers together, suffered through add maths together, we just had a lot of fun together and we didn’t see a problem!
It was then I really came to realize that skin colour is no difference from a having different preference of hairstyle and all those things that are not significant. However, as Malaysians we can relate very well to each other in almost everything else that really matters, such as the education system that we deeply dread (speaking from a student’s perspective). It is also then I realized that we are Malaysians and the ‘race’ column in forms are completely redundant. We might as well add columns for favourite food and favourite number.
Speaking of being a class monitor back then, I didn’t need to manage class paperwork or hand in our homeworks according to race, or have special treatments for any specific race. Come to think of it, if I were to sort things out according to all these differences, I would have wasted so much time doing nothing and became so much less efficient in carrying out my duties. And this could probably be a good illustration as to what a nation would be if we keep this practice going on.
As such I have completely lost trust in racial-politics that in my opinion breaks more than it will ever make. Personally, Vision 2020 has just became one of those lost childhood dreams that we have. In my opinion, believing in 1Malaysia is simply being in denial of the fact that you are still race-based no matter how many 1Malaysia project you try to launch. But my passion to see my country thrive still remains deep in my heart. I no longer want to see flying cars or floating skyscrapers. I just want to see the race column gone, and see Malaysians succeed together as who we are, in our own country, for our own country.
I just want to take this opportunity to encourage Ram and YB Hannah in their struggle to identify their child Shay as Malaysian. I would do the exact same thing when I have kids in the future. I no longer want to hear “he is malay, I am chinese”, I want to hear “we are Malaysians, let’s do this together”.
I don’t know how asking for a Malaysian’s Malaysia is too radical and threatening, I also don’t see how 1Malaysia makes sense if we choose to cling onto racial-politics. But whatever they are, slogans would remain slogans if we choose to resist change and progression. It just saddens me that It is so hard to be Malaysian, having no choice but to officially label ourselves according to race.
Are the differences that important, really? Can we just be Malaysians and start getting serious in making this country great?
PS: Don’t worry, aunties and uncles, I wont lose my hairstyle preference or favourite colour just because it is not in my birth cert.
JoFan hopes his kindergarten teachers would give him a second chance to draw his Vision 2020 on an art block today. Despite everything, he will not give up on the hope too see a Malaysia that belongs to all people who call themselves Malaysian and he aspires to be a part that makes this happen. He walked with Bersih on 9 July.