By TAY TIAN YAN
Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily
The theme for this year's national day is "Janji Ditepati" (A Promise Fulfilled), one that has since sparked some controversies among the people.
Allow me to first put aside our Merdeka Day celebration and this year's theme to talk about the London Olympics that will open in a few days' time.
The motto for the London Olympics is "Inspire A Generation," something that sounds a little dry.
Indeed plain as it is, just like the character of the Britons, the motto probably better reflects the characteristics of this year's Games: flat and uninspiring.
But even something uninspiring could create the extraordinary.
Because of the Olympics, I took the trouble going through a 1980s cinematographic classic Chariots of Fire that depicts an inspiring true albeit flat story.
The movie was set in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. The lead roles, Eric Liddel and Harold Abraham, were two young field athletes representing the United Kingdom in the Games. They joined the Games for very different reasons: the former for his religious commitment and the latter for the honour of his own people.
Having great chances of winning the 100m sprint, Liddel nevertheless dropped the event simply because it fell on a Sunday, the Sabbath day for Christians. He believed he ran for the glory of God, and taking part in the race on Sunday was a betrayal of his faith.
On the other hand, Abraham, a Jew suffering chronic discrimination and alienation, vowed to prove the capability of his race through the Games.
In the end, Liddel switched to 400m and won a gold in that category while Abraham clinched the 100m title.
They joined the Games for distinctly dissimilar motives. Along the way they did some self inner searches yet could still fulfill their goals on the track. What impresses the audience is the joyful smiles on their faces as they sprinted spiritedly towards the finishing line.
Perhaps the organisers of the 2012 Games have drawn some inspiration from this movie to come up with the motto "Inspire A Generation."
Now back to our Merdeka theme "Janji Ditepati." The main point, I believe, is not whether our government can fulfill its promises, but the theme has simply been too politically focused and government-centred.
The protagonists of Merdeka should be the rakyat, not the government nor any political entity. The theme should therefore be one with the people, to create a sense of belonging among the people, and not to proclaim the government's accomplishments.
The biggest deficiency of this year's theme is its failure to inspire a nation.