British rock legend Rod Stewart was once booked to perform an evening concert in Kuala Lumpur. The planned date was 31 August 1995. Since the date coincided with Malaysia's Independence Day, various sections in the society demanded the event to be cancelled. Many believed to have the concert on such an important occassion is inappropriate and insensitive to the feelings of those who had struggled for the country's independence. After all, Rod Stewart is British, and the British were the oppressive colonizers here.
The concert was eventually cancelled. Being a fan of classic rock music and a bit of a concert-goer at that time, I was extremely disappointed. I remember writing in my log book (I was taking an English language intensive course at the time) about how silly I thought the decision was. My contention was, yes, the concert happened to fall on Merdeka Day, but it was scheduled to be held in the evening, not during the day. All the talk and spirit of patriotism, nationalism etc are normally expressed in the morning. There won't be much anymore by night time so why not let some of us enjoy a good performance from a rock legend?
I must admit my attitude and viewpoints then were bad and immature. Yes, to have a rock concert held on the country's independence day is indeed inappropriate.
Having said that, I still can't accept the rhetoric about Rod Stewart being British and somehow represents the British colonizers and the colonial period. We Malaysians in fact are a strange lot. We talk about oppression under the British and hail our heroes who fought against them but in our day-to-day actions still embrace and adore their tradition and culture.
I have never understood for example why in a very warm climate country like ours, we still emphasise suit-and-tie as the utmost formal attire. If you walk to a departmental store and talk to the sales assistant in English with an immaculate English accent, the sales assistant will treat you like a king and serve you politely. And talking about departmental stores, has anyone thought about the irony of having shops in an independent Malaysia with the name 'East-India Company' and 'British India'? Was not the East-India Company the British company who cheated our sultans and took away many of our lands? Can anyone of Indian decent stomach a shop and clothing brand by the name 'British India'? Of course, this is Malaysia not India. But imagine, if you are a Malaysian visiting India today and you see shops with the name 'British Malaya'? That doesn't sound so nice, does it?
Someone once told me a joke: "if you throw a coin in London's Oxford Street (especially during the end-of-the-year shopping season), one-out-of-four times you will hit a Malay". A slightly different version says you will hit either a 'Datuk' or a 'Datin'. Whichever, the joke demonstrates how Anglo-philic we are despite the often-heard jibes and rhetorics against the British, and Western values and Western culture in general. After all, isn't our flag look conspicuously similar to America's?
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