Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The True Meaning of Youth Nationalism

It is a reasonable thing to say that younger generations of Indonesia are having difficulties on defining the real meaning of nationalism. “I can’t find any reason on why I should be proud of Indonesia” said one friend in a not-so-serious discussion. “If I am presented with a chance to live abroad and change nationality to gain a more stable life, I see no reason of not doing it.”

The sentence may sound bitter, but it is true. Not many young Indonesians these days share the same value as the patriots’ on the movies like We Were Soldiers and K19: The Widowmaker. Both films were inspired by true stories, and I was so moved watching how the American soldiers (We Were Soldiers) and the Russian submarine crews (K19:The Widowmaker) were so proud of their own motherlands and were even willing to sacrifice their lives for their own country.

My heart even pounded faster when I watched a scene from We Were Soldiers that shows a young American died while smiling and saying, “I am glad I could die for my country.”

How I dream me and other Indonesia’s younger generations can possess that kind of nationalism in our hearts.

Some of my friends, however, seem to have a very different idea. “When Indonesia has nothing to be proud of” he said. “Then why do we have to have such nationalism?”

Sadly, skeptical opinion like that really makes sense. One Indonesian may argue that it is even a privilege to be born as a citizen of United States or Russia which were used to be the belligerents of the world’s single dominant superpower. They have that proud feeling when they state their nationality as an American or Russian.

Conversely, talking about Indonesia, is our heirloom Red - White flag as worth dying as the Star - Spangled Banner?

It is said that nationalism is defined as a proud feeling of being a citizen of one country. Then what would be, if any, the reasons for young Indonesians to be proud of their own country?

Not surprisingly cynicisms always arise when young generations of Indonesia are asked about the future of their own country –most of them find that it is far much easier in finding the nation’s failings to be criticized rather than presenting tangible solutions or doing something to fix it.

I once watched television when one university student questioned the capability of our government and vehemently criticized its policies by revealing several facts of its failure to support the people.

Also, when the presidential election was in the offing, one friend of mine enunciated his skepticism of the election, “What’s the difference, mate. I don’t think there is any difference whether you vote or not. Indonesia is as poor as ever these days and many ill-fated Indonesians out there are still in a struggle for a living.”

Despite the fact that Indonesia has less to be proud of, I think nationalism should not be defined by only mouthing arguments and critics to express your concern to the country. Indonesia may still be mired in underlying problems like poverty, ramshackle bureaucracy, ingrained corruption culture, or, most recently, terrorism. Yet only few realize that many people in other side of this world have started to discern the progress of Indonesia in many sectors –thanks to people on the upper level of the government who have been working really hard to try to fix Indonesia for us.

A peaceful democracy prospers in Indonesia in only 11 years since its regime transformation, which is proved by our ability of choosing a president and house representatives directly in the previous election. And it is a privilege that not all citizens in this world can have.

Indonesia’s economy has been growing really well these days; despite the fact that global financial crisis has hammered many countries’ economies really hard, Indonesia is currently the third-fastest growing economy in the world and still manage to record a positive 4 percent economic growth amid the negative economic growth trend that occurs among most of the world’s economies –thanks to a nationalist like Sri Mulyani Indrawati, who gave up her previous job in IMF to serve the country as a finance minister where she actually earns only one fifth of the salary she received in her preceding office.

On the national security sector the Indonesian State Intelligence Agency (BIN) is well-known for its 100% successful rate of detaining every terrorist who ever dared on upsetting Indonesia’s national safety –Malaysian-born terrorist Noordin M. Top may be still wandering out there, but surely he feels worried by now as the BIN is coming closer and closer on the pursuit of putting him into the same fate as Amrozi and Imam Samudera’s.

With such achievements, I am not too comfortable with the fact that many young Indonesians prefer to disparage the government rather than appreciating the hard work.

Don’t criticize; ask what you can do. In my opinion, I think you are not permitted to mouth critics on your own country when actually you have never done anything to it.

I want to do something for my country, and consider this simple writing as the small act of my own promise. If you were in my shoes –a teenager who is still in his young age and is trying to make change on something–what tangible deeds can you do but writing a piece while hoping that such writing will influence people as they read it?

Let’s hope that my fellow Indonesian friends read this piece and get inspired by it, so it can emerge their sense of nationalism and stop them from being so cynical about Indonesia, a nation whose independence was redeemed by bloods and fleshes of our founding fathers 64 years ago.

Happy anniversary dear motherland, may I and my fellow friends of the young generation grow up to be the one who can raise you to a higher echelon in the not-so-distant future

This article was published in The Jakarta Post on Wednesday, August 19 2009


Anonymous said...

insightful writing. I think it's true we should appreciate the govt hard work and shouldn't criticize while actually we don't do anything. But, ppl need a living and security. Then, how come ppl live in a country where living, roughly said, is too hard to make? This doesn't mean that they hate their country. I think it's just common sense ppl want a good living. If you can find a living that is good enough, then why not?

WeHa said...

Reminds me of a quote:
"Don't ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

I hope that what I am doing now is still for the better future of Indo. I still miss Indo. Like in the song Tanah Airku: "even though I travel afar, it will never be gone from my mind."

Nice article, Sat! As always. Keep up the spirit!!!

Heru Santoso said...

Nice piece.

ChikitaRosemarie said...

havent been reading your writting lately sat, but this one amazed me :)

i always love to hear ppl's opinion about nationalism, especially in our country..

in my opinion, there's a diversity in the society bout nationalism itself. there're ppl who don't have it at all, ppl who only have it, ppl who have it and make something out of it, and ppl who still mistaken, ethno-nationalism into nationalism.. those ppl who possess ethno-nationalism are no better than those who don't have it at all..

but all i can say is that, the situation now is different than in the patriotic era.. but i can positively say that this thing is still developing..

and it's growing, don't u think? from batik clothing, to the use of indonesian products, and all.. especially when you go to the other sides of the country, not jakarta-the big city, the situation is a lot different.. our country is a country with high level of diversity after all :)

just like education, nationalism need to be communicate, and socialize.. and the responsibility is ours, and our govt too..


Heru Santoso said...

I agree with you ChikitaRosemarie. In Indonesia talking about nationalism can be a bit complicated if not tricky considering the fact that we are Indonesians are of different cultures, customs, and religions. Ideally, we would say that we are united despite all the differences, but in reality it's not that easy. The country wasn't established by racial homogeneity like Japan, for instance. But more of the fact that we were once occupied by the Dutch and the Japanese and used the same lingua franca.
It's something I've been arguing for years now, that until a Central Java has governor of Minangese decent or Aceh has a governor of Sundanese descent, the path towards Indonesian nationalism is still so long. Somehow (if you noticed) some people of this country feel more of a member of certain ethnic group than an Indonesian (that's what I've experienced as a Bukittinggi-born Javanese, racial prejudice has slowly diminished, but honestly it's still there). And as ChikitaRosemarie said Indonesian nationalism needs to be communicated (if not indoctrinated).
Now I'm waiting for Andreas Harsono's travelogue Debunking the Myth of Indonesian Nationalism and hopefully we'll have the answer.