By LIM MUN FAH
Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily
When opening the recent National Student Consultative Council meeting, deputy prime minister cum education minister Muhyiddin Yassin said university students should have more open-minded attitude towards the various programmes implemented by the government. He also urged the students to voice their opinions and express their patriotism through proper channels so that the government's transformation programme could be carried out smoothly.
What the PM said touches on a few aspects, including patriotism and open attitude.
Talking about patriotism, what John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, said has far flung influences over not only the Americans but the world over.
"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country" has been over and again quoted by leaders of many countries to awaken the spirit of patriotism among their people and soothe their disgruntlement and dissatisfaction towards their countries and governments.
It has been 51 years since JFK's 1961 inaugural address was delivered. He said this probably due to the specific historical needs of his time, which was a time of intensive ideological struggles and the peak of the Cold War era. There was this perceived need to arouse the patriotic sentiments of Americans to brace the enormous challenges from the communist world and Soviet Union.
Half a century has since lapsed and over the past 50 years, democratic awareness and liberalism have been on the rise, with people beginning to buy into the beliefs that economy shall prevail over politics, civil rights over their nation's sovereign rights, and populace over the state.
People's perception of statehood has changed and "patriotism" is a whole lot more than just "accepting policies implemented by the government" or "asking not what your country can do for you."
Instead, people begin to question the justifiability of the government's policies and query "what the country can do for them."
As for open attitude, it is absolutely essential but is in no way a unidirectional thing. While tertiary students must have an open attitude, the same is true for the government too.
Having an open-minded attitude and accepting government policies are not mutually contradictory, nor consequential. Neither has anything to do with patriotism at all.
University students must be able to think independently and not accept anything lightly. They are trained not to accept the inherent, straightforward or unitary answers to every question. On the contrary, they must learn to explore, analyse and deliberate, express and argue liberally what they feel in their quest for truth.
In short, our students have to be pluralistic, macroscopic and accommodating. They must not swallow everything fed to them or be self-centred.