By DAVID LIAN
When I was about nine, a trip to the “Pusat Sumber” (resource centre) in school was a real treat not to be missed. So whenever the teacher asked us to “go outside and line up”, we would hurriedly do so, eagerly awaiting whatever video was about to be shown to us.
I remember one trip to the Pusat Sumber particularly well, when we were shown the historic video of Tunku Abdul Rahman raising his hand in the air and declaring “Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!”
Today, I watched that video again on YouTube after a simple search for the term “Merdeka”. And even though lying on my bed watching through the high-resolution screen of my laptop differs greatly from sitting on the school floor watching a 14” TV screen with grainy pixels, I couldn’t help but feel a little nostalgic.
The experience also keenly impressed upon me that we’ve really come a long way since 1957 as a country.
Well, at least in 1957 we had film to record our declaration of independence and television to broadcast it to the masses. The United States in comparison will never have a video of Thomas Jefferson signing their declaration of independence.
But I digress. The whole idea of recording important moments of history with the best available technology of the day is not something we often think about. My personal observation is perhaps the reason for this is because we care little of where we come from or how we’ve come to be. And it’s a shame.
Man has always been obsessed about keeping a record of themselves to survive long after they’ve expired. And for a good period of time, that’s how a lot of technological innovation came about – from papyrus, to chiselled rocks to huge structures and paintings and books. Now, it’s YouTube videos and tweets.
History is being written, recorded and shaped by technology.
Imagine if Malaysia’s Declaration of Independence were tomorrow. What fragments of that historic event would Malaysians in the future have? Would Tunku be tweeting “Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!”? Would someone screencap it and write a blogpost to record it? Let’s not forget the HD video recording.
But let’s leave how we’d record it aside for a moment and look at the way the people are now involved in public discourse much more than ever.
Right now, as you’re reading this, there’s probably some #RAGEchat going on about #WhatMerdekaMeans to you young people. And I’d like to know how many young people are actually going to participate and have an answer to that question.
Do young people still think about Merdeka? Or have we all grown up and taken it for granted?
In many ways, while the Declaration of Independence is sealed and stored away nicely, what Malaysia actually makes of “Merdeka” is still largely in the hands of its people. We’re a nation in process.
And technology determines more than ever how we can get in on the process. Aug 31, 1957 was a wonderful days for the whole country. It meant many different things to different people, but above all, it meant that we have a country to ensure there will be many other wonderful days to celebrate.
Only this time, these events will be live streamed on the Internet and recorded by millions of people on social media for all time. But as young people, we have to first give a hoot enough to get involved.
How do we get involved, you ask? Be more inquisitive. The Internet is a treasure trove of discussion, and if you bother, you’ll easily unearth the issues of today’s Malaysia. And with a simple Twitter account, you can lend your voice to some of these issues being debated today.
Don’t be afraid to join in the conversation with the adults. Social media is the medium of the younger generation, and we ought to use it.
Look at it this way – we’ve now got a chance not just to stand by the sidelines and watch Tunku cheer “Merdeka, Merdeka, Merdeka.” We’ve got the chance to make and shape the Malaysia that Merdeka won for us. And we’d better grab it with both hands.