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Beyond 'Merdeka!': The Unfolding Story of Unity

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31 Aug 2023

5 Min Read

Ishaanaah Ravi (Alumna Writer), Nellie Chan (Editor)


Explore Malaysia's journey of unity: uncovering how it has evolved from independence to 'in the present' and discovering the sustaining factors!

Behold Malaysia's favourite holiday of the year is upon us — Hari Kemerdekaan! A festivity that ignites patriotic sentiments for that one out of 365 days, not to mention fuels anticipation among the nation for an additional day off from school or work. Through our 21st-century lenses, we often view our celebration of independence as a mere reminder of our history — our happily ever after. But listen up, Malaysians, because I'm here to tell you our story doesn't end there. There's a more profound concept tied to independence that continually calls for our attention.

Our unity since 'Merdeka!'

Let's rewind the tapes: During Malaya's pursuit of independence in 1957, a powerful force — unity — played a pivotal role; it brought our people together to break free from British colonial rule. Leaders of Malaya and representatives of diverse races and religions united, sending a clear message to the British rulers: that the people of Malaya were determined to shape their own destiny.

Mural of Tunku Abdul Rahman

Looking back at history, we can see that this spirit of unity has always held great importance. However, achieving independence is only the first step in the journey towards unity; sustaining it requires ongoing efforts. Since then, we've witnessed our government implementing measures such as introducing rules and regulations and establishing a parliament — entities dedicated not only to addressing but also to actively opposing any form of discrimination that could undermine our unity and progress. This dedication, deeply woven within the fabric of our democracy, demonstrates how people from diverse groups can come together and overcome differences for the shared goal of unity.

United ke tak?

Undoubtedly, unity has made a significant impact since Malaysia's 'first chapter'. Yet, within the context of today's dynamic world, a critical question arises: Have we, Malaysians, sustained that unity? There have been moments when our collective efforts have fostered a sense of harmonious togetherness. However, as we change alongside the changing times, what might initially look like a united front can uncover challenges that need to be confronted.


Consider the case of our very own hero, Akka Nasi Lemak. What began as an inspiring tale of community support soon took an unexpected turn. Following her rapid rise to fame, many individuals became cynical of her, and misconceptions started to circulate. Based on viral videos depicting her apparent success story, some assumed that her life was now smooth sailing. However, the reality is quite different: she remains the sole provider for a family of four, enduring difficulties particular to the B40 community. This instance is a stark reminder that unity, even when supposedly achieved, can be short-lived.


But why does this happen? It often stems from a sense of self-righteousness. This individualistic perspective can cause us to lose sight of the true purpose behind our community support efforts. This prompts us to ponder: How can we address self-righteousness, then?

Jom, let's redefine our unity!

Journeying ahead, let's navigate the concept of sustainable unity! In this digital age, our ability to develop deeper connections becomes even more vital. So, being mindful and adopting these three key mindsets is imperative: understanding, empathy, and learning. This emphasises that unity surpasses a mere display of solidarity; it encompasses collaboration and active contribution. However, due to the diversity of generations within our nation, each might interpret these mindsets differently. Therefore, here's a list of how the younger generation, like you and me, could embody these mindsets!

  • Social Media: Understanding Beyond Trendiness

In an era dominated by social media trends, it's essential that we look past the appeal of trendiness. Being part of a trend extends beyond the superficial act of posting about it. It requires a genuine understanding of the cause, which means gaining insight into its motivations, challenges, and goals. While scrolling through posts might create a sense of participation, nurturing sustainable unity demands a deeper engagement with the cause — understanding the complexities it involves and forming an actual connection.

Malaysian youths watching a video on a smartphone
  • Community Initiatives: The Role of Empathy

Participating in community initiatives is a stride towards unity, but mere presence doesn't ensure a sense of togetherness. Sustainable unity is nurtured through empathy — stepping into the shoes of those you seek to support. It's about connecting with them on a deeper level, understanding their experiences and emotions, rather than just offering assistance from a distance. Active engagement in community initiatives involves more than lending a hand; it means getting to know the lives of others.

Hands grasping another hand
  • Economic and Social Progress: Learning About Our Country

Staying informed about our country's progress isn't just about staying up-to-date; it's a proactive approach to nurturing sustainable unity. Economic and social progress affects everyone, and understanding these aspects empowers us to make well-informed decisions. Unity grows when we actively explore diverse viewpoints, engage in meaningful conversations, and welcome a wide spectrum of perspectives. So, by learning about our nation, our decisions and actions contribute to national unity, as they're rooted in a thorough understanding of its journey.

Malaysian youth purchasing an item from an elderly Malaysian


From plating up a feast for sharing to putting up the Malaysian flag on our front porch this Hari Kemerdekaan (and Hari Malaysia), unity is indeed embedded in our identity. But in the face of changing times, it's crucial for us to remain committed to a unity that is sustaining and lasting, nurtured through the mindsets of understanding, empathy, and learning. So, dear Malaysians, I hope this article serves as a call to action for us to use this extra holiday to reflect on our unity and love for this country we call home!

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Ishaanaah Ravi is a Bachelor of Education (Honours) alumna who enjoys reading and creative writing in her free time. She also finds fulfilment in conducting volunteer work, believing that life is not just about what we receive, but also about what we give.

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