Indonesia / Social Commentary

The diversity we took for granted or a little rant : Time to do another youth congress?

*This post is written and re-written in the past four months. I feel more and more urge to let this out of my chest. Recurring events of tension and violence against religious groups, certain tribes even violence against our very own ecosystem and animals in Indonesia is alarming to say the least. Not to mention how our current government is making its way to enforce censorship instead of making our people smarter.

Growing up in Indonesia, one of the things the school taught me is that Indonesia is a diverse country and that we unite in diversity. Bhinneka Tunggal Ika. That Indonesia is a large country, with all sorts of shades of colours, languages and cultures. Almost like a microcosm of the world. You know how when we see diamonds you get to see pretty and enchanting refractions of light? Indonesia could be seen as something like that I suppose. Even back in the days, the Dutch refers to the Indies as their kostbaarst sieraad. Precious jewel.

I stumble upon this image not too long ago, and it made such an impression on me. I mean, while it is eerie to see it now, there is a sense- false as it may be- of beauty and a kind of solid ties amongst these islands as -ahem-, Nederland’s jewel. Precious jewel.

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When I think back to our history lesson in schools, nationalism aside, Indonesia (as a conceptual ideal) came about like science fiction novel – for a very long time we did not exist as one nation, and the numerous oppressions and exploitation came about and then a group of intellectuals came together, talk about liberation, nation and the future, there were plenty of fights and blood being shed and then Indonesia established in 1945. Things were great, people were happy that they could determine their own fate, things were hard and there were real struggle to stand on our own feet but people were happy and hopeful to be independent, to be Indonesia.

When we say things like Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, it is in some ways like a mantra. We heard about diversity so much, but I don’t see it prevalent as I grew up it almost like an urban legend. Only when I reach university then I see the full extent of Indonesian diversity and I have to admit, it was lovely to see and experience. Even then, what I experience in Uni is just the tip of the iceberg.

As I grew older I became more aware of the bitter part of reality that with diversity also come discrepancy. That slogan you see in school classroom “Bhineka Tunggal Ika”, the posters where we learn about tribes in Indonesia, the long list of languages spoken is becoming more like a utopian ideal rather than something we prized and work on. Today, in the 21st Century, we still see families quarrelling over cross-tribe marriage, let alone cross-religion marriage, we still see minorities being bullied and well, we have yet to overcome and come out at the other end as a better growing nation.

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Remember this guys? Source

As a member of the younger generation of Indonesia, my gut felt like it is being kicked over again learning about struggles people still needs to face despite saying that we are an independent nation. While I continue writing this down, I just realised that tomorrow 28th of October is 87 years (!) of Putusan Kongres Pemuda 1928. I had to find a copy of the decree, just to make sure that it isn’t just some urban legend. I think it is really great what happened back then, there is quite an awareness of diversity AND discrepancy that they feel necessary to address and resolve it through Indonesia-ness (ke Indonesiaan). I also think it would probably be good if our generation could somehow sit together and do the same thing – thinking and resolving Indonesian diversity. And that Bhinneka Tunggal Ika would be not just a mantra.

Maybe for once I can see Indonesia that takes care of its generous ecosystem. Maybe for once I can see the true meaning of harmony. Maybe. Just maybe.

Here is more writings on Sumpah Pemuda by Lorraine Riva, Johan Ramandias, Arie Sadhar.

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