There have been a number of things I have stumbled upon in the past few months. First, I impulsively ordered book bundle, which theme revolves around my beloved country, and read one called “Jakarta Jive” by Jeremy Allan. I immediately breezed through the book, and despite that it was written 10 years ago, it’s staggering, fresh and witty as ever. It honestly covered the tumultuous moments before the fall of President Soeharto’s 30-year reign and we saw how the series of events affected Jeremy, and most importantly, the ever dynamic Jakartans themselves. I was much too little to remember what really happened back in ’98, and the fact abroad in Myanmar with my parents at the time, certainly left me with a lot of questions as I grew older. Jeremy found not only rage, restlessness, and chaos, but also solidarity in between. And the last scene of the book still stays in the back of my mind; of him sipping hot, black coffee or tubruk as we call it in a make-shift roadside kiosk, inhaling the smell of both uncertainty and hope in the air. I believe that up until this second, that scent still lingers as we strive to survive in one of the world’s largest democracies.
Then, I also read a community article in The Jakarta Post, written by a girl who also came across a wonderfully written book about our vast archipelago, calling it “the bad boyfriend”. I found myself chuckling at that label but it’s not necessarily how I’d like others to view my country. Yes, Indonesia is as columnist Julia Suryakusuma has fondly referred to as “a bundle of contradictions”, and it would literally take an entire book to describe how the traditions, customs, and beliefs shape our behavior, how irrational and illogical it sometimes is. “Religious, but raunchy,” was one paradox that will always jump at me. Why? Because from the endless amount of time everybody, including the government, talks about sex and the condemning promiscuity, simply justifies how much we actually love sex! We are making it too easy, haha. But anyways, let’s leave that to a different post, eh? So, the girl who wrote that article moved to encourage young Indonesians to write more in English about our country so that maybe, the international society would finally stop thinking of Bali as the actual country but start thinking of Indonesia as an archipelago with a richness of beauty and culture.
Now, cynics might come barging down on me, that I’m just making things worse by insinuating that we must talk and write in English to boost tourist visits. That by doing so, we’re selling our country and its language. But come, on. Why can’t we simply set aside our egos and open our eyes to the fact that globalization is unfolding before our eyes? Thanks to technology and its gift of a rapid dissemination of information and knowledge, we are more in touch with the rest of the world. And the English language, for example, has made it more manageable for us to get access to other cultures.
However, I’m noticing that maintaining a local or even indigenous culture seems to be a massive area of concern here, with Western influences being the usual source of the blame. But are we losing pieces of who we are for, say, listening to some Coldplay? Or talking about the fiery American Presidential Debate with our colleagues at work on our way to lunch at a nearby warung? I highly doubt it. Still, what troubles me is when Indonesians turn against each other for embracing societal advancement. We are now constantly bringing each other down, criticizing those who enjoy anything un-Indonesian that we seem to forget that modernization is not Westernization. I’m not writing this blog in English because I despise or am uncomfortable speaking in my native tongue. This is simply how I’d like to use my voice in telling the world about my life, in my country because I have nothing but admiration for my country no matter how contradictory it is. It just fuels me, even more, to play a part in its progress. This is how I’d like to contribute to the concept of an international outlook that we as Indonesians could relate to. Take Kartini. Yes, she studied Dutch, spoke it very well and acquainted herself Western thought and European feminism that catapulted her battle of women’s emancipation because of their restricted roles under colonial rule. Despite being married off to a polygamous man, she went in with a mindset of helping her ailing father and didn’t just sit there in silence. The point is, she had the best interests of her country at heart.
I mean, have we simply forgotten that our country encompasses 17,508 islands, thus making up a diversity of ethnic groups and cultures? I believe that there’s no better representation of multiculturalism than that statistic alone, and yet we are so resistant to outside forces and so, so hard on one another. I think that we need to move past our hardheaded tendencies and open our minds. That statement may ooze with naiveté, but I guess you can’t please everyone. You do you, is what I’d like to say.