Tuesday, August 21, 2012


We, as a nation, as a collective whole, have lost the promise of that day, nearly 55 years ago.
When I was a kid, I was an unabashed patriot. It all seemed so simple back then. Mahathir Mohammad was a demigod, Malaysia was the best nation in the world, and there was more than enough reason to sing 'Keranamu Malaysia' as loudly as possible every National Day. I even wanted to become a soldier at one point. 

Growing up does funny things to the world around you. In Malaysia, that meant exposes about corruption, or learning what Mahathir had done to his once-darling deputy, Anwar Ibrahim. And the courts. And the press. Many of the people I'd grown up with became solidly, vehemently anti-government. I held out a little longer, I think; that and debating mean I see the current political situation with a (slightly) different set of lenses.

As I prepare to leave, and to hopefully begin a career and life abroad, I recall the times friends have suggested I stay, said that I could help fix Malaysia. I have many answers to this question, none of which will satisfy those people who'll give me grief for not 'menabur bakti kepada tanah air'.

I think the first has to do with a simple reality: that if I do want to help feed the world, to find solutions to the precarious state of global food supplies, I can't do it here. Biotech initiative after biotech initiative has fallen by the wayside, and the country doesn't have the scientific, legal, or financial infrastructure that will make truly beneficial GM research feasible. The way I see it, the global food situation is a transnational issue, and blind nationalism is an obstruction to really helping the people who need it most. 

If I succeed at what I intend to achieve, Malaysia will reap its benefits. Don't worry.

What about politics here? Off the table. Completely. For starters, I don't have very much faith in the system as it is. I'm talking about all sides of it. The parties, the press, the electorate, all of them. As I told a friend recently over coffee, I don't think me or my ideas are going to get very far over here. Call that what you want, that's just the way I see it. 

Plus, I don't entirely trust myself with power anyway. It's very easy to lose your moral direction, and believe me when I say I think I'm vulnerable.

The truth is, I'd want very much to come back, to never give up on Malaysian food, the people or all the other cool things the inner patriot once loved about Malaysia. But there are bigger issues at stake, and I just can't tackle them here. This, I think, is a sentiment many students share.

I will keep hoping and wishing for genuine progress in Malaysia, because the seven year old who thought the Petronas Twin Towers were the coolest thing in the whole world has never truly gone away. For now, I'll shed a quiet tear, and say a silent prayer. God bless you, Malaysia. 

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