As Malaysia celebrates her 59th Independence Day, I was asked this question – what is a major unifying factor that is not given enough emphasis in our country?
Having just witnessed the euphoria of the Rio Olympics where 206 nations and 10,000 athletes came together, my answer would undoubtedly point to sports. We saw how Malaysians rejoiced with joy and pride when our divers Cheong Jun Hoong and Pandelela Rinong struck silver, our first medal which was followed by cyclist Azizulhasni Awang’s bronze and shuttlers Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Wing, Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong and Datuk Lee Chong Wei adding three more silver medals.
Their feats in Rio were just the right tonic for a nation that has endured many challenges of late. Malaysians stood united and cheered for the national contingent in Rio as true Malaysians, and not as Malay, Chinese, Indian, Iban or Kadazan. Besides sports and during festive occasions, when else have we displayed a true 1Malaysia spirit?
Our strength as a multicultural nation started since our conception in 1957, leading up to the unification with Sabah and Sarawak in 1963, and was followed through the decades when the people stood united and rooted for many occasions and celebrations, including sports. And when our team performed well, especially on international stage, all of us celebrated wholeheartedly together as Malaysians.
Looking back at our past, the spirit of 1Malaysia was on display since the days of our first prime minister and Father of Independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman who worked hard to liberate Malaya from the British. That same spirit was also carried on-screen by Malaya’s “Seniman Agong” P.Ramlee, one of the greatest Actor, Director and Producer this country has come to know. His movies often included all of the three major races, non-discriminately, and it was always a joy to watch our daily lives come to life on the big screen.
Not forgetting Malaysia’s most famous and favorite cartoonist, Datuk Mohd Nor Khalid, better known as Lat, and a personal favorite of mine. The mastermind of Lat’s – The Kampung Boy comic strips, his work often evokes themes centering on racial harmony, which has tugged the hearts of many Malaysians.
Another national icon that touched the hearts of everybody in this country was the late singer, Sudirman Haji Arshad. Although graced with only 37 brief years, he left a legacy of love and unity through his songs such as “Balik kampong” and “Tanggal 31 Ogos” that till today reverberates through every vigor of Malaysia’s modern entertainment culture.
Coming back to sports, I must emphasize here that sports, till today, is a great unifying factor. Malaysians forget about race, religion and who they are when they come together to support their national team. We have all witnessed that during the recent Rio Olympics especially at the badminton finals.
Unfortunately, when sports is taken out of the equation, Malaysians tend to focus and be bogged down by religious and racial strives that is threatening to tear our society apart.
What most don’t realize is that, today, as an Asian nation, we are in the best position in terms of world economy power as countries such as China, India and the Middle East are shaping to become the super powers of the 21st century. Come to think about it, we stand a good chance of becoming the adopted nation of one of these super-powers if we continue to display that Malaysia is ‘Truly Asia’.
How so, you may wonder? It is a known fact that Malaysia is home to one of the largest populations of Overseas Indians as well as Chinese living outside of their home country. On the other hand, the Middle Easterners often regard Malaysia as a second home because we are the embodiment of a model Islamic nation.
We should exploit these strengths and show the world that we are a unified nation where multi-religious, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-racial people can get along as a united entity, instead of letting our differences tear us apart. More than ever, we need a common purpose to unify us, so together, we can achieve our dream to become a fully developed nation by 2020.
We need to bring back the glory days of the 70s and 80s when the whole nation sat glued to their television sets without a thought to race, religion, creed, colour or upbringing differences, but with only one purpose in mind – to cheer for Team Malaysia during the Thomas Cup and Merdeka tournaments.
The question that comes to mind is how do we get Malaysians to unite always, especially through sports? It’s quite straightforward. We need to create champions, those with a passion for excellence and who will be role models for the younger generation. The people behind the sporting associations should not be politicians, but those who are passionate about sports and are genuinely interested in taking the game to greater heights.
Instead of bickering about petty differences, we should be investing in the best coaches to achieve our quest for the elusive gold medal, come Tokyo 2020. There should be effort to include the public in conversations involving national sports. This undoubtedly will bring about the closeness and camaraderie among the people which cannot be inculcated in classrooms or through lectures.
Let’s take our squash prodigy, Nicol David, as an example. When she won the world title and was listed as among the Top 20 greatest athletes in the world by UK’s – The Telegraph, we were all proud of her regardless of her race, religion or age. The support and pride that we felt in our hearts is precisely what 1Malaysia means to me.
There were also other international sporting events that united as 1Malaysia, long before it became a national acronym. I still remember the 1989 SEA Games when Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was the Minister of Sports, the 1998 Commonwealth Games as well as whenever Malaysia won the Thomas Cup in badminton tournaments.
Here comes the multimillion dollar question; what happened along the way?
Perhaps, we should take a hard look at our national education system. Alarmingly,
ethnic segregation has become an emerging feature in Malaysia’s education even though the institutional role of educating the next generation should be solely focused on instilling unity and tolerance for each other. The underlying problem is that, at all levels of education provision in Malaysia, alternative streams are allowed to coexist alongside mainstream education provided by the government. Disturbingly, these alternative streams are not reinforcing what mainstream education is trying to do, which is to foster ethnic integration. Instead, the alternative streams have become divided along ethnic lines.
In order to overcome the challenges that the nation faces, especially in fostering race relations and national unity, we need to first liberalise the education system at all levels. Malaysia is a beautiful country with a great future if only our diversity becomes our unity and we get the best people to lead us.
Coming back to sports, opportunities should be given to all Malaysians to participate in national games, be it as a coach or a player. National recruitment must be based on merit, and nothing else.
Just as in the glory days of our national football team where we saw players of all races and religion such as R. Arumugam, Santokh Singh, Soh Chin Aun, and Mokhtar Dahari or ‘Super Mokh’ represent Malaysia, allowing us to even qualify for the Olympics twice. It is imperative that racial politics be completely removed from our sporting recruitments. Instead, the focus has to shift to producing the best athletes the nation has seen, just as how we have cheered and supported Nicol David, Lee Chong Wei, Shalin Zulkifli and Pandalela Rinong in their respective world-breaking feats.
We are lucky to be alive in a time where social consciousness is seeing a positive shift. We have seen how America came together 8 years ago to elect Barack Obama as the first black American President. On the same note, I believe that there is no better time than now for Malaysians to come together as one nation for the betterment of the country as a whole.
The younger generation are now more matured, more intelligent, better educated, tech-savvy and more tolerant. They are passionate about seeing Malaysia rise to the top. What we need now is for each and every political party to wake up and realize this phenomenon because Malaysians are more concerned about employment, income, health and education, instead of the age-old ramblings of differences in race, religion, sex or age. More importantly, the people want to remain united under the umbrella of 1Malaysia.
This national day, let’s remember the initial foundations that this country was built upon, and together, let’s celebrate Malaysia simply because we need to show the world that unity through diversity works!
Dato Sri Vijay Eswaran
Failure is not about doing something wrong, but more times it’s about not doing anything at all.
Every time we run from fear, we run towards failure.
The greatest failure of all is the fear of failure itself.
People are attracted to fear as much as they are repelled by it. The adventurous nature which is lying dormant in all of us awakens to the raw, unrestrained elixir of fear and it gives them an incredible high, when they embrace it. Which is why we have mountain climbers, sky jumpers, deep sea divers, extreme sports athletes, etc. And yet, the same others who, as opposed to being energised, are paralysed by it and recede behind their shells are getting into the other side of the same emotion, resulting in paralysis, stagnation, and eventual deterioration. Either we embrace our fear and vow to conquer it, or give in to the paralysis fear brings and succumb to the failure that comes with it.
What doesn’t paralyse you energises you.
The difference is fear. The same thing that you see as fear, others see as impetus. After all, what is the great difference between tears of joy and tears of frustration? One is embracing, the other one is paralysing. You cannot have one without the other. Unless you go through tears of frustration, pain, and despair, how can you possibly feel or be swept by tears of joy or ecstasy?
Fear is an attitude.
One man looks at the same thing and says, “Beautiful.” The other man says, “Disaster.” The point is that beauty and beast are not different. They exist simultaneously.
Fear is beautiful to some. There are some people who gladly step off a plane while 15k feet from the ground. To others, it strikes unimaginable terror in their hearts. I know people who would rather be grilled over open fire than step into a roller coaster such as the cyclone. Interestingly, children are the least affected by it. The conditioning and brainwashing that life forces us to undergo creates layers and layers of fear that impale us and propel us to virtually run in the exact opposite direction – thereby making us indomitable failures.
Ultimately, fear is the best way, if not the only way, to compel us to do what we exactly need to do in order to succeed. Thus, running away from it means that we are running away from success and running towards failure.
Every one of us makes hundreds of micro-decisions every single day, from the smallest tasks to major life-changing decisions. Whether simple or complex, decisions are an inherent part of our lives, and making better and swifter decisions helps improve our productivity and our ability to manage our lives. While there are no hard and fast rules for decision-making, based on my own experiences over the years, I have put together a simple 7-step guide to help you master the art of decision-making.
1. Correcting decisions is the way we achieve success.
No decision can be absolutely correct because no one has perfect information. Therefore, decisions need to be arrived at and to a great extent derived from information, both new and old. The process of correcting therefore continues as our information changes. Eventually, as we get better information, and/or gain experience from errors made, our succeeding decisions invariably get better.
2. There is no challenge in making the right decision first.
You learn nothing. There will be many more decisions to be made before the completion of the project. Making the first decision right is as probable as choosing the right horse in a race. The objective of the decision making process is to improve one’s analytical and strategic skills. No one gets everything right.
3. Making the right decision is most important towards the end.
The final decision will prove whether your first decision was moving in the right direction.
4. A delayed decision is a decision denied.
There are arguments made by some that, in delaying a decision, they are making a decision. This is an illusion. While delaying a decision is sometimes necessary, ultimately it means that a decision still has to be made. And there is a price to be paid for the delay. Fear of decision making is as awful as cancer, and as debilitating.
5. There is no such thing as intuitive decision-making.
An intuitive decision comes from a lifetime of habit, and thus is a form of reflex. Although it may look spontaneous and effortless to the onlooker, it is in fact an ingrained methodology that has evolved over a period of time, based on experience in failure, and mistakes made. Success doesn’t create intuition, failure invariably does. Once burnt, twice shy.
6. All decisions in one form or another need to come from three factors.
(1) Projection, as one has to recognise the impact of the decision; (2) Preparation, because no decision can be made without some form of research and analysis; and, ultimately, (3) Planning, because all decisions must be implemented as planned.
7. Decisions are lines drawn in the sand.
And then turned into concrete. Decisions are the stairs that are carved into the journey of life, either taking you up or leading you down. Recognising this is critical to progress. Going up or down is temporary. Not moving at all is permanent. Hence, the final point is, decisions must be made.
Being vegetarian for most people is either about tradition, culture or heritage. For my father these things meant very little. His only point was – If you need to kill to eat, then do the killing yourself.
He said to us as children, “If you really want to eat the chicken, kill it with your hands. Then it’s yours to eat. If you can do the killing, unflinchingly, then you are fine to eat whatever carcass remains. But, you can no longer be a child of mine, because I cannot conceive of anything worth killing for. Man, animal, or even nature itself. There are many things I would die for, but nothing I would kill for.”
His words remain with me till today. Those were the words that on many an occasion during my visits abroad and while I stayed abroad as a student, stopped me from partaking in anything that was not vegetarian. The logic to me is very simple, as it was simple to him. If you cannot kill it, why would you eat it? If you can kill it, what does it say about yourself?
Based on what my father had said to us as children, I recall an incident involving my younger brother, when he was around 5 or 6 years old. My parents had to go on a trip for 2 weeks and they couldn’t take us with them. Hence, they dropped us off to live with some relatives of the family. Knowing that my brother and I were strict vegetarians, the family abstained from cooking any meat while we were there. However, by the end of the first week the head of the family, an uncle of ours, was feeling unduly constrained by the fact that no meat had been cooked in the house since our arrival.
So on a Saturday morning, when he had this craving, he went to the market, as was very common in those days and brought back a live chicken. As was his practice, he went to the back of the house, to the backyard to kill the chicken, which he did by wringing its neck. And then he proceeded to pluck the feathers in order to clean it. My brother, a little boy then had meandered off from the family room where we were all playing and had witnessed the whole affair from the kitchen window. Just as my uncle was carrying out his morbid task, he suddenly felt two little chubby hands grasping his throat from the back! My little brother, who at the time probably weighed only one fourth of the man proceeded to vigorously try and choke him to death! It took the maids, and the gardener to yank my brother unceremoniously off the poor man who was still in shock!
We all looked on horrified at the scene unfolding in front of our eyes. And then we noticed that my brother was grinning with a glint of victory in his eyes and in a ferocious tone screamed out, “Now you know what that chicken felt!” All the whole holding tufts of the poor man’s hair still in his hands.
That dramatic incident has stayed with me so clearly all these years. I often repeat it to many, especially those who are bringing up children as vegetarians to keep reminding them that the objective is not about creating a good habit, rather about creating a clear understanding of the why, the reason behind it.