It has proved to be difficult for me to curate and write in the midst of negativity that our country has faced in the past year. Somehow, my feelings were emitted in the lack of nationalism that the months August and September have brought. It took constant reminders to remind myself that it was Merdeka month — where were the constant reminders in the form of flags and competitions being advertised around the roads in Kuala Lumpur? Something was amiss.
It took me to read accounts of a Syrian refugee in Germany that sparked a sense of appreciation in me. I will admit, somehow, somewhat, I kept asking myself what has happened to me for not feeling that patriotic feeling? I only felt fear for my country, if not for the whole world. Somehow, I felt hypocrisy to feel a sense of pride when the world lives in fear — of Daesh, of assaults, of an inevitable economic meltdown, just to name a few.
Reading the accounts of a Syrian refugee in The Atlantic magazine shone a light on my opinion and perspective of the world, as well as the peace that we enjoy today. As cliché as it sounds, but too often, we take the peace that we have for granted. Especially when it stands to be threatened by the likes of terrorism and Daesh. My encounter with a Syrian refugee in California (who was my Uber driver) materialised that appreciation for peace more when I realised the man who has been booted down to the lowest of social ranks and viewed as a burden to a society and nation was once a well-respected engineer. His only “mistake” was being Syrian.
That encounter and the many articles that have been written to humanise the plight of the refugees have made me question how much we take the peace that we have for granted. To realise that one day, my law degree may be at risk of being nothing but a piece of paper that holds no weight because my country is at war. So much more can be said about my friends and peers who have seen their parents save for their education. But, because of a civil war, the years of saving up and the gruelling years of university would be nothing because of the political instability that exists.
The wealth stored in the form of cash might also not save you from the perils of war. The Syrian refugee that I met told me accounts of how he had cash stored in his office in Aleppo, but had no way of getting it out without risking a life — and he had a story to prove it. One story was on how his friend and his friend’s family met a fatal end, wife and kids included.
No matter the political situation that we are met with today, it might not be our preferred choice. We still struggle to make ends meet, and we still wish for a better future for our children, who would be Malaysians till the end. We might struggle to make ends meet as we frustratingly sit in our cars in Jalan Tun Razak’s daily traffic, but I, for one, would convey appreciation for the luxury of coming home to a safe house and knowing that I might stand a chance to live another day instead of being bombed.
Accounts and stories of the Middle East haunt me to no end, and I admit to being one of those that avoid encounters or stories of them to protect myself. Ignorance is bliss, as they say, and ignoring the cries, images and stories of mothers losing their children and children losing their families is something that I am guilty of. I shall hope and have faith that one day, things will be better, and my religion tells me to pray for them, for there is an afterlife where the pains and struggles in this life would be rewarding for them. Whatever it may be, I am certain that the little accounts and stories that I have been exposed to have made me appreciate the little thing that I am certain of in my country: the clear blue skies, free of jet fighters and bombs. So, Malaysia, thank you for the peace, and thank you for giving me the ability and luxury to grow. Happy Malaysia Day.
Tengku Nur Qistina Petri, a grand-daughter of former prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj, is a fresh law graduate trying hard to find her place after her years at the University of Manchester. Always probing into discussions, she often regrets not doing Politics, Philosophy and Economics