A soldier was once asked whether he fought for his country or his government. He replied with another question to the first question: Is there a difference? The sincere inquirer told the soldier that you could love your country, but suspect your government’s love for you. The soldier thereafter stood at ease.
“I would die for my country, but I could never let my country die for me,” said Neil Kinnock. Match that with Edmund Burke’s quintessential thoughts that “to make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.” Much to digest for those who stand for elections and wonder how badly, and profitably, they ought to serve the people.
During his presidential inauguration President John F Kennedy rained a torrent of guilty conscience when he exhorted Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.” JFK probably equated country for government, or was he insinuating at something totally profound and worthy of deep ponderance?
So, do Malaysians love their country as much as they love their two unelected governments? Many blame a former prime minister as the root and shoot cause of the political dilemma right-thinking Malaysians are forced to swallow. This maverick politician obviously has a lot of grassroots support that is able to nurture neo-shoots of nationalism and patriotism.
Does patriotism and nationalism emanate from the love of your country with all its beautiful mountain ranges, waistline defying cuisines, flora and fauna, frequent welcome rainfall that do not cause city flash floods, fertile soil, rivers, valleys and pristine beaches?
Or, does patriotism and nationalism emerge from our consciousness of unstoppable corruption in high and low places, unparliamentary behaviour in the Dewan Rakyat, potholes in our uneven roads and highways, a veritable paradise for litterbugs, uncaring semi-conscious motorists, uncontrollable traffic jams, and a deteriorating ringgit value and worth?
All said and done, the people are to be blamed for tolerating this malaise. President Ronald Reagan may have hit the bullseye, “if we love our country, we should love our countrymen.” But this is where the divisive forces of mala fide government kicks in when other races, especially Black Americans require a Black Lives Matter political statement.
Mala fide divisive politics and programmes in Malaysia assuming various labels and slogans seem to offer a false sense of nationalism and patriotism. Can you be forced to love your government? The only think that works is supposedly money politics. Like the golden rule: he who has the gold rules.
Benjamin Franklin left us this eternal reminder: “God grant that not only the love of liberty but a thorough knowledge of the rights of man may pervade all the nations of the earth, so that anybody may set his foot anywhere on its surface and say: This is my country.” Notice he carefully left government out of the equation.
‘Thorough knowledge of the rights of man’ ought to have significant constitutional impact, force and traction in Malaysia where constitutional supremacy subsumes parliamentary supremacy. Those who stand up for the rights of man-made legislations also stand up for parliamentary supremacy that facilitates eminently stupid laws. “The law may sometimes be an ass but it need not be so asinine as that,” cautioned Lord Reid – the man who helmed the Reid Commission.
The rule of law does not apply to the love of your country which is a rare form of piety that serves special purposes and oils the wheels of the role of justice. The rule of law, on the other hand, extracts from the people a tacit submission to the “love of government” which has no meaning, reason, purpose or definition in the grand scheme of things.
But can you love your country and your government with the same amount of gusto and enthusiasm, and be truly grateful for the blessings of nationalism and patriotism. The great Filipino conscience warrior, Jose Rizal, captured the moment: “Even if my country does not seem to have forgotten me, I have always thought about it.” This polymath inspired his people to end Spanish colonial rule, and paid for it with his life.
There are hardly any Rizals around. But, there are thousands of Rumpelstilskins hovering in our political consciousness attempting to prove that one could spin straw into fine gold with one strong hand in your pocket.
Enter, the righteously indignant citizen and denizen voter.
The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.
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