In the last few weeks, a ragtag band of people have occupied a bit of our territory mostly to draw attention to their alleged claims to said piece of land. We took a while to realize that they were serious, and seriously armed, and once we did, suddenly it was war.
I use the word “war” loosely here, meaning that our authorities finally decided that they had to deal with this group aggressively. We could not actually declare war on another country because no country had invaded us, only the delusional citizens of a neighboring one.
This fine point seems to have been lost on some. All at once, “war” broke out, mostly online. We should be grateful that the war of words doesn’t actually spill blood because otherwise the cyber sphere would be strewn with dead bodies by now. Still, there must be a lot of wounded souls.
Suddenly, otherwise mild and liberal people turned belligerent and the baying for blood abounded. Patriotism morphed into nationalism, then into plain old-fashioned jingoism. Flags flew high and fervent prayers for victory were said.
Those of us who were shocked by the gall of these people scrambled around to get more information. The appalling lack of it on our side pointed to one obvious deficit in our country: there is hardly anyone here who can explain what this is all about. This invariably led us to scour the news sites in the Philippines for some explanation of these people and their claims.
While some of the Philippine media are just as sensationalist as ours, the more serious ones published several articles by academics with a good grasp of the historical background of those islands where the invaders come from. On our side, we have only one academic who, at the time of writing this, has done 26 interviews on the subject.
Unfortunately, not everybody is interested in nuance and historical background. Suddenly because it is “war”, everything becomes acceptable, including violent name-calling.
The Spanker now begins to understand the real effect and relevance of Bush’s “war on terror”, how it made jingoism in the United States acceptable and how democracy could be so easily suspended. Already we are possibly seeing some collateral damage.
In times like these, talking about peace becomes politically incorrect. To be properly patriotic, one must shake one’s spears and not hold out bouquets of flowers.
Yet that was exactly what a group of young people led by one Joseph Lee did recently in a project called Ops Bunga. They went to the Philippine embassy to place bunches of flowers as a gesture of peace towards our neighbors.
A small gesture, sure, but a much needed calming one - a moment of solidarity among Malaysians and a hand extended in friendship. It is instructive that in moments of tension, it is almost always young people who think up positive ideas to smooth the waters.
Resolutely apolitical, these young ones refuse to allow any hijacking of the issue by politicians. Indeed, they could be said to be a response to the political grandstanding that often accompanies these events.
Speaking of positive thinking Malaysians, Sabahan lawyer Josephine Hadikusumo wrote and sang this beautiful song dedicated to our fallen heroes.
Titled Sleep Now, the song is Josephine’s way of expressing her grief and sorrow, which she believes is shared by all Malaysians, over the loss of lives of security personnel while defending the sovereignty of the nation.
Thank you, Josephine. Your song is beautiful and poignant and expresses it well for all of us. Our sadness for the fallen heroes and their families and for our beautiful country being invaded by terrorists who were cheered on by Malaysian traitors. It’s a sad humiliation for those who have no sense of when to set aside politics of hatred and stand up united for our country.
If you’re interested, here’s more on Josephine:
The Spanker is proud to be your fellow Malaysian. May God bless the fallen heroes. Malaysians must unite in times like these. Leave your hatred behind.