The Burden that Every Young Indonesian Has to Carry
Posted May 19, 2008on:
This article was published by The Jakarta Post on May 19, 2008 as part of a special report celebrating Indonesia’s 100th Year of National Awakening. Read the article on The Jakarta Post, here.
It’s not easy to be a young Indonesian. The challenges are great and tough. Some of you might wish that you had been born in an advanced country like America or Japan so that you wouldn’t have to witness the poor crying for food every single day.
It’s the burden that I have to carry. A burden that you, your friends, and any other young Indonesian have to carry. It’s the burden that our founding fathers wanted us to carry.
It’s what young Indonesians have been pressured to do: To make a big change to our society.
Some say that a country’s greatness depends on its young people. Some say that it’s always the young people who make the great changes to one society. They say that the young people are the ones with a great motivation and energy. They are the brave and the optimistic ones. They’re the ones who dare to fight against injustice.
In 1908, several young Indonesian intellectuals living in The Netherlands established the first Indonesian political organization called Budi Utomo*. This organization was probably the first group of young Indonesians who felt the urgency to spread the spirit of nationalism throughout the country. Their efforts proved to be revolutionary.
Ninety years later it was the young Indonesians who fought and stood up against the dictatorship. The 1998 movement resulted one word that would be part of our daily conversation and lives for the next several years, and that word was reformasi. The young Indonesians were praised at that time for their courage.
But ten years after reformasi and a hundred years after Budi Utomo, it is sad to know that I see more pessimism than optimism among the young Indonesians. Everywhere I go I meet young Indonesians who think that there’s nothing we can do to Indonesia. They simply say, “It’s Indonesia, what can you expect?”
When they gather there’s this one kind of joke they always love to use: A joke of how stupid Indonesians are or how ridiculous our culture is. They say that Indonesian values are so old fashioned and not adaptable to the current condition.
When I was in Jakarta for six years it was hard for me to find young Indonesians who were proud of being Indonesians. Yes they claimed that they lived in Indonesia and that they were Indonesians, but at the same time they admitted that there was a little bit of shame inside their hearts for being part of Indonesia.
Most young Indonesians I know think that Indonesia is so corrupt and the whole system is just flawed. Everyday they read news about how their government officials are accused for being dishonest and disloyal to people.
It should be noted by everyone that our young people’s frustration is something real and should be taken seriously. Some of them travel around the world to see how other nations managed so well in developing their people and countries. And when they come back all they can see is how the country they call home looks hopeless and helpless.
It’s indeed hard to have another Budi Utomo that this country once enjoyed. The circumstances and energy are different. But I think there’s still a hope.
Although there’s a strong tendency of pessimism among our young Indonesians but at the same time I see there are a lot of young Indonesians who share the same energy that our founding fathers had in the past. Unfortunately, they are not exposed by the media.
The spirit of 100th Year of National Awakening should be used as a moment for those young Indonesians who still care about the dream that our founding fathers had to remind others that we still have a hope.
Young Indonesians have to learn how Budi Utomo and its founders could manage to “burn” this country with the spirit of nationalism and unite the young Indonesians: They could face a very difficult time and challenges, and they succeeded.
Although the problems are not the same, but essentially we are having the same problems that Budi Utomo once had to fight: Young Indonesians are not united, the economy is not in a very good condition, and too much of Western influence within our young Indonesians.
I know it’s hard to make changes. I know it’s hard to make good changes when your environment is not supporting. And I know it’s hard to make great changes when everything seems to be so imperfect. But, no one is perfect and you don’t have to be good to do good things.
Let us all be the change that we want to see in Indonesia and let’s start it right now. Let’s carry the burden that our founding fathers wanted us to carry, not just because we love our government or because our politicians tell us so.
Let’s carry it in the name of our Indonesian parents, grandparents, brothers and sister, families, and friends. Let’s carry it for all those people who love us for being born in this beautiful paradise called Indonesia.
*By this I mean, “Young Indonesians who had lived and were still living in the Netherlands finally established Budi Utomo in 1908.” I regret this confusion.
The picture above taken from President SBY‘s website.