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Be careful what we wish for

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Samuel Johnson said a long time ago, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”. Of course common sense would tell us that Johnson was not indicting patriotism in general, only fake patriotism.

When a regime is unable to justify its actions or has failed to extricate itself from one fiasco after another, the last resort is to plead patriotism. I am referring to a news item, ‘Time to act to restore patriotism, says Rosmah’s aide’ which appeared in Malaysiakini today (March 10, 2017).

But how do we get the people to feel loyal, proud and devoted for their country? Is it something that can be decreed upon? I really wish it is that simple.

We know there is a difference between the government and the nation it governs, although the two are quite intricately linked. While we must be absolutely loyal to the country, we could disagree and even vote out the government of the day. The intricacy is to demarcate governmental actions from national actions.

I think it goes without saying we want government actions to be in consonant with national interests. Once the divergence between the two is narrowed, patriotism would come naturally. Otherwise there will be endless accusations and counter-accusations.

I don’t think I am less patriotic if I want Malaysia’s image upheld and its citizens protected. Why must Malaysia’s image and prestige be attained only at the expense of its citizens being detained indefinitely? Have we done enough to take anticipative actions to achieve both?

Rightly, patriotism should come naturally from our hearts when citizens feel loved and wanted and their interests nurtured and protected. The government of the day ought to know whether they have done enough for the people.

When the people are happy and their interests protected, there is no need for fake patriotism through coercion, decrees or even indoctrination. Nazi Germany and Militarist Japan found this out too late and too dearly.

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