ETC. Op-Ed. / Features.

#MerdekakahKita?

[By Kyle Iman]

This piece will serve as a reminder to not only whoever reads it, but to myself as well.

Consider if you will, events that are occurring around the world as we speak. We have on our hands the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. From Syria, to Gaza, to Myanmar, people are desperately trying to evacuate their homes for a simple reason: if they don’t, they die. The former host of the popular political satire programme The Daily Show, Jon Stewart, put it aptly when describing the plight of the Gaza Palestinians in particular when he furiously asked, “What are they gonna do, swim for it?!”

Thankfully for us Malaysians, we do not have to endure ethnic cleansing, artillery shelling, and drone strikes on a regular basis. We are, as our local television channels are so proud to announce once a year, ‘independent’. And we have been since 1957, which is not a short time by any means. But while we are enjoying the fruits of our sovereignty, while we are able to keep ourselves fed on a daily basis to the point that obesity is now a greater killer than starvation, while we have access to the best educational resources to keep our economic cogs moving the mighty Malaysian money-making machine, we must now take a step back and ask ourselves the question: “Are we truly a free people?”

No, by ‘free’ I am not talking about our former colonial masters such as the British or Japanese. I am also not talking about our current political situation (that is a completely different discussion for another article). What I am really trying to ask is: “Are we free from the shackles of our own minds?”

Yes, I am going to be blunt here and say that although we are a free people, we have thrust ourselves into voluntary slavery; prisoners of our own device. We concern ourselves with mundane things like going crazy thinking whether or not members of the opposite sex find us attractive, whether or not people we can’t stand are failing in their life, and staying up-to-date on the latest spicy gossip surrounding this student or that lecturer. So much so that we have forgotten our purpose of being human in the first place, and that is to, first and foremost, invest in ourselves.

How much negative energy have we spent on other people? Are we not tired of furnishing every detail of our lives to fit the shallow, imaginary standards of perfection that society has created? Are our feet not lacerated enough from standing on a pedestal of spikes just so that people we don’t even care about would like us? And most importantly, are we really content with wasting our lives away on others, while the furious pace of the world’s development continues to pass us by with us having no part in it?

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Most die at 25 and aren’t buried until they’re 75”. Going by this saying, we had all better check our pulses to see if we are still alive. We are capable of so much more than what we are giving ourselves now, so why give what little we have left to serve the ugly norms of others? We can sit around, scream anti-government slogans and complain as much as we like about how our nation is going backwards, but in reality, who do we have to blame for that? We have gotten so complacent in our own industry-fuelled fantasies that we have forgotten how to survive, how to fight for ourselves.

So, go. Set yourself free. Get out there and fight. Not with guns or blades or fists, but with your hearts. Write a book. Compose a song. Hit the gym. Dance. Make a sculpture. Whatever gift you have been given, use it, because that was given to you. Once we have fulfilled our purpose and not what others want us to be, then and only then can we truly call ourselves ‘Merdeka’.

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