What Independence Means for a Young Indonesian
Posted August 15, 2008on:
This article was published by The Jakarta Post on August 15, 2008 as part of a special report celebrating Indonesia’s 63rd Independence Anniversary. Read the article on The Jakarta Post, here.
I’m a proud young Indonesian who spent almost 16 years in Indonesia’s education system. I studied Indonesian history, its values and Pancasila. But if you ask me what Indonesia’s 63rd anniversary of independence means my answer will probably be, “I don’t know.”
I’m not proud of having such a notion but I don’t think I should feel guilty because many of my young friends have the same impression of this celebration. Some even say, “I don’t know and I don’t care.” Yes, they don’t care.
For many young Indonesians, including me when I was in school, the anniversary of our country’s independence only means another boring flag ceremony. Some may like the ceremony but that’s only because they can skip class.
Have we really lost the true meaning behind the most important celebration of our country? Can we blame the older generation for not encouraging the younger generation to love our country more?
What does it really mean to be 63 years old, anyway? What should the government do to energize the people and make them appreciate their country a little bit more?
There are so many questions to answer. But we don’t have much time to answer them because while we are puzzling over these questions, other nations are racing to improve.
Those of you who watched the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games know exactly what I mean. I’m sure you were as amazed as I was to witness the best opening ceremony in the history of the Games from a country whose primary mode of transportation 20 years ago was the bicycle.
It was, without any doubt, China’s moment to show the world how great they have become. It may have been coincidental that China’s opening ceremony was less than two weeks from our national independence celebration but it certainly made our celebration seem so less important. It probably struck all of us while watching China’s drummers’ magnificent performance: “What do we have to celebrate on the anniversary of our national independence?”
My teachers in school used to tell me that our independence was fought and won with blood and tears by our grandfathers and grandmothers. And I know exactly what that means because I have two examples from my family.
It’s a remarkable coincidence that both my grandfathers served in the Army and fought the occupying forces. Both received Bintang Gerilya which is one of the highest awards the Indonesian government gives its citizens. Amazingly, they both passed away on Aug. 17 and now rest peacefully at Taman Makam Pahlawan (National Heroes Cemetery).
It’s unfortunate that I never met my paternal grandfather; he died when my father was still young. But I was very close to my maternal grandfather. In fact, he was the first person to teach me English. He was a humble and a very loving person who just wanted simple things in his life. Sometimes he would tell me stories of how he fought in the jungle during the war. He said making his family happy and giving them freedom had been his ultimate reasons to join the war.
The lesson from today’s trend and my grandfather is that we have a different enemy but we have the same purpose. We don’t need to fight a war against an occupying force but we do have another kind of enemy we need to fight. We have to fight against the problems in our economy and education and health systems. But we still have the same purpose that was once used by our grandfathers and grandmothers — to enable our families to have a better place to live.
Indonesia’s 63rd anniversary should be a reminder to all young Indonesians that our time is getting closer and closer. In less than 10 years some of us will have the chance to lead this country and its people.
It’s very painful for me as a young Indonesian to see how other nations can be so great and advanced. It’s painful to know people in other countries can live so prosperously while we see beggars at every traffic light in Jakarta.
After 63 years of independence, it is not a comfortable fact that we can’t smile big yet. The statistics shows we are still left behind. But that should not be our excuse to stop trying to make this country a better place for all of us.
The world is moving into a knowledge-based society, and the challenges we face in the future will be greater. To be the best, our natural resources will no longer give us the ultimate advantage. What we need is to be smarter and have more knowledge. The question now is, “Are we ready to capture it?”
What we can learn from new emerging countries such as China and India is no matter how poor and inexperienced you are, there is always a chance to be better if you have a strong motivation to work hard and make your dreams come true.
And to all those young pessimistic Indonesians I tell you this: “If those countries can do it, of course we can do it better!”