What Independence Means for a Young Indonesian

Posted on: August 15, 2008

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!”


20 Responses to "What Independence Means for a Young Indonesian"

Yonna, I am soooo sorry that I am accidentally become the first reader who comment on this article.

Talking about China and its glorious awesomeness, I would say that they are one nation that we can take as a good example so we can stop acting ‘we-are-too-pathetic-to-survive’.

Just like Tasa said, “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.”

Mari kita berhenti menyerah kepada keadaan.

ahh.. buru-buru sih.. harusnya “Yonna, I am soooo sorry that I accidentally become the first reader who comment on this article.”

I wish I can change Indonesia, but I can’t even change myself yet.

Michael: Yeah, that’s the spirit we all should have! It’s not easy, but it’s worth trying.

Dino: Same here sometimes. Not easy, I agree.

In my humble opinion your words are clear and your ideas are common sense.

But if you allow some critical marginal notes, I think looking to the past ( Independence Day) is necessary to understand the present. The goals set for the Indonesian society by Sukarno & Hatta c.a., are about the same as yours. It’s worthwhile to take some time every year to remember what Independence was about.

Secondly I think the examples you mention, China and India, deserve a critical analysis first. China went through a series of real ugly experiences over the last 60 years before it became an economic success. Even now, for all it’s great economic figures, it is going through a lot of misery. I mean you better not be a Chinese living in the “provinces”( 80% of the population), or belonging to a deviant minority. Inequality is the rule. Apart from that I guess you, for one, will not be an advocate of the political system which claims the credits for the recent Chinese accomplishments.

I rather think the young generation should combine idealism with pragmatism and a very high degree of integrity. Plus original, creative thinking of it’s own. So I wish for this younger generation of Indonesians that it will accomplish ( and this should apply to younger generations in other parts of the world as well) the making of a mixed, open society based on equality and solidarity, equal chances for everyone when it comes to income, knowledge and power, by putting the main burden on the shoulders of those who are the strongest.

I’m looking forward to a challenging socio-economical political program by some high potential, spotless, charismatic and pragmatic idealists.

Go Tasa, go.


Hi Tasa, where r u now? got any chance to celebrate 17 at home?

i agree with Colson (strangely, in matters of indo independence day, i agree wth the dutch man 😀 )

[…] This very interesting blogger wonders what’s the use of Independence Day, the 17th of August. His doubts are to be understood. His question is correct and his considerations should be taken serious. Yet, I think looking to the past is necessary to understand the present. Which in it’s turn is a requirement to make a better future. […]

*Kok kesannya gue ama Mike rebutan Tasa? mengerikan :mrgreen:

ojo sungkan-sungkan tho, le….i like to share my pertamax position with everybody including you 🙂

so you have military granddads ya?! me too, both my maternal and paternal granddads are fighters but they aren’t listed in Veteran’s list. I don’t know with my maternal grandpa, but my paternal grandpa refused to had his name in the list, he said “I don’t need my name on it, I fight for freedom for my country and I done that wholeheartedly. I just wish, Allah SWT will give me reward on heaven someday amin”. i heard that story amazingly. Not just my old grandpas, even my daddy used to be a PRRI’s fighter in PRRI civil war and left his studying to fight in the jungle for a while but then back to school to finish his study in Economy Class.

So, you and me already have fighter’s spirit in our blood, so it’s our turn to continue what our grandparents fighting for. To me, independence means another year for Indonesia to get up, to grow up, to develop and to be better. To remind us how old it is and need a hand from the young Indonesians to make it better 🙂

By the way, continuing my grandpas and daddy’s stories, no wonder if I used to imagine if I were a boy I would like to join Kopassus (the creme de la creme force, special military force in Indonesia) or to be a jetfighter pilot, flying the jet with tha fastest speed that you never imagine it before, fire the enemies down there with sophisticated weapons. I think a job that requires physical ability, brain, tough mental, feed adrenaline and risk your life is what I call as a real job. Of course, how to lead your units and be responsible are included too. That’s why I like Bruce Lee, Jet Li and Steven Seagal’s fight. Mostly Bruce Lee because he taught that Kung Fu is more than just a martial art, it’s about philosophy too. Or maybe, I was too much watching movies and they make me daydreaming after that :mrgreen:

Oh well, my current job is similar to military force (quote and quote). I know this because when I just finished my study and began to work, my boss told me to read “Sun Tzu Art of War”. The-must-read-book for newbies like me at that time. I think I dropped into the right place. Hehehe, kacau 😆

Nice writings. I read your opinion in Jakarta Post and interesting to visit this blog. Good blog actually and full of wonderful thought. Hope to know you better.

Hi Tasa, it’s very nice meeting you at KBRI the other day.. and congrats for this published piece. It’s a great article…. and I enjoy your passion and optimism 😉 — still jetlaggy so I’ll not comment more….. keep in touch, ok?

Let’s start with the man in the mirror, shall we? 🙂

In my opinion, independence means terbebas dari belenggu fisik and non fisik.
Belenggu fisik are kemiskinan, keterpurukan, and semua yang membuat kita ga bisa maju dalam hal apapun.
Belenggu non fisik is belenggu yang selama ini menutup hati kita so we can’t be a good person.
It’s just my opinion…Btw I’m sorry if I use mix languages (Indonesia – English) for my comment.
NB: Proud to this blog…and of course to the writer.

Colson: Thank you for your nice and insightful comment. I agree with your first opinion that remembering the past is needed. No doubt. I do believe that the past shaped our present and future; we need to learn past to be better. And for the second opinion, I do support your point of view. We should be very careful when we look at China’s great growth and whether or not we should follow every step they make. We’re different and we should have our own way to improve ourselves. But learning from others is also needed.

Mulia: I wish I could have. Where are you?

Yonna: So you suddenly have grandfathers serving the Army too? Haha. Well, you can still join Kopasus in a different way, I guess. Hehe.

Juju: Thank you. You can know me better at 🙂

Mer: Hi Ibu Mer, it was great talking to you. I will contact you pretty soon.

Nadia: Setuju!

lemonade: Yes that’s the spirit we all should have. Let’s be free from anything that’s strangling our freedom. Thanks for your kind support lemonade, I really appreciate it 🙂

gak gabung di AD kok, cuma pas perang ikutan berjuang, pas selese diminta data2nya untuk dokumentasi pejuang, cuma Ongku gue gak mau. samaan ma bokap gue, gak gabung di militer tapi pas PRRI ninggalin sekolahnya dan ikut perang di hutan sana, sampe bude (kakaknya bokap) nyangkain bokap gue udah tewas (karena ada kabar yang menyatakan demikian), tapi alhamdulillah selamat dan sekarang jadi bapak dari 4 anak dan ongku (kakek) dari 9 cucu 🙂

ok… but don’t call me Ibu just because all pejabat like to call everybody Ibu. i am older than you, but not too much 😉

Yonna: Oh gitu, berarti kita sama donk. Hehe.

mer: Ok Ibu, I won’t call you “ibu” anymore. Instead I think “mba” will be more appropriate 🙂

A quality wirting, as usual…

indeed, i cant agree more… Independence day for Indonesian youngs today are just a jargon. i cant sense proud anymore. i cant smell glory no more.

what makes me proud is JBRB. 🙂 its a start. 🙂

bravo again to you Mr. Tasa!

contradictiveminds: Thank you. And thank you for the support for JBRB. Yes, it’s a small step into something bigger.

Gosh….I love your articles!

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guebukanmonyet is Tasa Nugraza Barley. He's a free man with unique thoughts and dreams. He sees his life and this world differently from anyone else. That's because he knows what he wants; and for that reason he doesn't want to be the same. Read why he blogs, here.

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