What exactly does the word “patriotism” mean? According to most dictionaries, patriotism is a sense of emotional attachment to one’s homeland. To put it simply, it means national pride.
The Cambridge English Dictionary states that it is “the feeling of loving your country more than any other and being proud of it”.
Others have also viewed this word as showing devotion to one’s country; concern for its defence; wellbeing and future.
It is with this idea of patriotism in mind that I refer to the intention of the Subang Jaya Municipal Council’s (SJMC) threat to penalise businesses which do not fly the Jalur Gemilang.
The Council President has stated that effective from next year, a compound fine of up to RM 1,000 will be imposed upon businesses which fail to display the national flag for two weeks from Merdeka Day onwards (from August 31 – September 16).
What is the reason for this policy? According to the SJMC, this initiative will encourage the spirit of patriotism among Subang Jaya residents. As a resident in Subang Jaya myself, I find this directive abhorrent for several reasons.
First, it is a form of bullying to be forced to foist the flag or otherwise pay a hefty and disproportionate fine for non compliance.
Second, it mocks the true meaning and spirit of patriotism by compelling the public to do something just for the sake of it.
Third, it lowers the dignity of the Jalur Gemilang itself – is patriotism so cheap that we have to use fines for non compliance in this manner? Shouldn’t we hoist our national flag because we cherish and respect it, and not because some body in a position of authority makes it mandatory for us to do so ? Can patriotism be shoved upon us in this manner and is this an effective tool for instilling reverence for our national flag?
Our national flag is a precious symbol of this nation’s fight for independence. It stands for our sovereignty, and our ability and right to stand on our own two feet. Freedom lies at its very heart and core.
At the end of the day, patriotism is not about merely displaying a blind deference for those in authority but a genuine ability and willingness to stand by the principles that this country is built upon.
And this surely means that the freedoms and liberties of the individual are not to be sacrificed at the whims and fancies of any particular organisation.
Patriotism is about what our nation represents; its values and beliefs. It is about the ability to think for ourselves and to be sincere to our country, in substance, and not merely in form. To be loyal and to do our part as a sincere citizen. To do what is necessary, even if it involves personal sacrifice, for Malaysia to be successful, both from a domestic and international perspective.
In conclusion, as Malaysians, if we choose to fly the Jalur Gemilang because we want to do so, well and good. But to penalise us for not doing so is clearly not the way to instill patriotism in this country.
Patriotism must come from within, and means much more than just flying our national flag just for the sake of it.