Historical Events That Happened On 31st August. The Reliability Of History Books.

And thus, National Day has arrived. To Malaysians, 31st of August is a day of joyous celebration and display of bandwagoning patriotism. Celebrate of what? Independence? Independence from what? The Brits?

Ironically, a day of joy in Malaysia happens to be a day of sorrow of our former rulers as 31st of August also marks the day of Princess Diana's death eight years ago. The birth of a nation, the passing of the princess of hearts, both on the same day.

Curious to know what other historical events have happened on this day, I went to Wikipedia to seek answers. And here are the more interesting ones:

1056 - Byzantine Empress Theodora dies suddenly without children to succeed the throne, ending the Macedonian dynasty
1888 - Mary Ann Nicholls is murdered. She is perhaps the first of Jack the Ripper's victims
1897 - Thomas Edison patents the Kinetoscope, the first movie camera.
1920 - First news radio program broadcast in Detroit, Michigan.
1931 - Production of Ford Motor Company's Model A ends, with 4.3 million produced.
1939 - Nazi Germany mounts a staged attack on Gleiwitz radio station, giving them an excuse to attack Poland the following day, starting World War II.
1957 - The Federation of Malaya gains its independence from the United Kingdom.
1962 - Trinidad and Tobago become independent.
1991 - Kyrgyzstan declares its independence from the Soviet Union.
1997 - Diana, Princess of Wales, dies in a car crash in Paris.
1998 - North Korea reportedly launchs Kwangmyongsong, its first satellite.
2004 - Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ is released on DVD and VHS in stores across the United States, selling approximately 4.1 million copies by the end of the day.

So, does that mean that Trinidad and Tobago and Kyrgyzstan are also celebrating their independence day today? What about the others? Does Mel Gibson remember the 4.1 million copies of DVD he sold on August 31st? Probably not.

The comments on yesterday's articles left me absolutely mortified and horrified due to the suggestions that our country would've flourished even if we remained under British colony. Surely you jest, my friends? The blood shed by our forefathers to achieve independence, were they all for naught? Oh, I am so heartbroken.

All right, enough with my over-the-top bandwagoning patriotism. Yes, identity is an abstract subject, but many people are proud of their so-called 'identity' today. But how can 'Malaysian identity' be defined? The unique culture and tradition developed by us after acquiring independence? The feeling of pride for what we have now? Mamak stalls and Manglish = identity of Malaysians?

Or is it deeper than that? Like, based on the latest blog entry in Petaling Street Blog by John Ling, 'devoting yourself to what was set in stone by the founding fathers of Malaysia. Values like tolerance, openness and honor; and ideals like social justice, true equality and freedom from oppression'. What were Malaysians (Malayans?) like before independence? Were we less tolerant, open and honourable? Was there less emphasis on social justice and true equality?

Freedom from oppression? Oppression of the Brits? Which brings me back to the question I posed yesterday. How bad were the Brits when they colonized Malaya? Were we economically, politically and socially messed up? Were all races turned against one another? Constantly feuding? A post-apocalyptical land without law? Was it a hierarchical society? Perhaps in the past, all lands were owned by the Brits, thus we didn't really have anything? When we were invaded by the Japanese on WW2, it was said that the cowardly British Army ran away to save their own hide, leaving the Malayans to their own fate.

History books tend to give the British Colony a very unflattering portrayal, but how accurate are they? This may be controversial, but to tell you the truth, I was never really impressed by the so-called heroes who fought against the 'British oppression' on the 19th Century, people like Tok Janggut, Maharaja Lela and er, a couple of others whose name I can't remember, whose failed rebellions against the Brits led to the loss of their own lives, and also those who followed them. What did they achieve except to prove that they weren't doormats? But wouldn't that be too high a price to pay? Why are they regarded as heroes when everyone of them failed so badly in their campaigns?

Because their courage and determination to fight for what they believe were inspiring? Or are they merely inspiring because the history books said so? What would have happened if these rebellions have never occurred? When negotiating with the Brits, how much did those historical 'heroes' actually inspired Tunku Abdul Rahman? How big a role did these 'heroes' played when the Brits finally relented and granted independence for the Federation of Malaya?

I'm curious, thus I ask. The National Day is not just a day of celebration, it's also a day of self-reflection and contemplation. And these are what I have been contemplating.

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