is a country striving to improve economically, socially, politically –
there are so many fields in which we have room for improvement. Yet, we
sometimes forget the most basic and essential requirement to strengthen
this nation: Identity. No matter how rich we are as a country, we will
never be strong without knowing our identity, our roots, where we’ve
come from. This we should preserve from a very young age.
I was quite shocked and saddened when I talked to a school student
who didn’t know what Pancasila is. It was also disappointing to learn
that young Indonesian children prefer Cinderella, Goldilocks, Sleeping
Beauty compared to Bawang Merah Bawang Putih, Lutung Kasarung, or Keong
Mas. Some of these children have never heard about these traditional
Indonesian folktales may seem old-fashioned, or some might only see
it as meaningless fairy tales. However, these folktales were written and
told for a reason. Traditional folktales have incredible philosophies
and life lessons embedded in them. Plus, the best thing about these
folktales: They are very, very Indonesian. They provide children with a
lot of cultural, geographical and historical knowledge that we shouldn’t
abandon, even if we are now already in the globalization era.
Folktales, in my point of view, should even be taught as part of the
primary school curriculum as they will help shape young Indonesian
children to become adults who are aware of their heritage, their
cultural identity and their roots.
I have showed a bunch of young school children a scene of a wayang
kulit show and they were so intrigued. It’s just sad that they’ve never
been exposed to it. Many schools teach in English every day, they also
teach international history (and not the Indonesian history), teach
students English songs in music class, to the point where these students
never learn anything about their own country.
Modernization does not mean westernization.
I’m not saying
that I’m anti-Western, I speak English myself. But please, at least for
the primary school curriculum, do not abandon all the knowledge about
Indonesian history, culture and geography. There is so much to learn
about this country.
I used to be so ashamed of being Indonesian when I was younger. I
even had it all planned, I wanted to move overseas and live there for
the rest of my life. But when I did live overseas, I was so surprised
how appreciative people were of my heritage. They never saw Indonesia as
a messed-up country like I did. Right there and then, I was ashamed of
myself. I returned to my country feeling extremely proud of being
Indonesian. Back home in Indonesia, I observed how people here are so
desperate to change Indonesia into a copy of other countries because
they thought it would make Indonesia more modern and advanced. We bury
our identity under a heap of outside influences, until they’re almost
lost, until we don’t know who we are anymore.
We can be advanced and modern – but in our own interpretation. In
order to reach a good future, we have to look back and see what happened
in our past.
Learn Indonesian history, learn from past
mistakes, learn from our culture. Read folktales, learn from its
philosophies. As the late Great Dalang, Ki Narto Sabdo said, “Ojo
ditinggal kepribaden Ketimuran.” (Do not abandon our Eastern self).