There’s a red and white flag flying on my front gate. That’s about the extent of my participation in celebrating Independence Day. Unless you’re still at school or work at an office or institution that holds a flag-raising ceremony, the day feels like any other weekend. And it being the fasting month and the beginning of the holiday traffic, one might as well postpone or cancel this year’s celebration altogether, as I don’t think anyone is really up for a sack race, a krupuk eating contest or a climb up a greasy pole.
After all, the spirit and energy just doesn’t seem to be there. A friend of mine who has to lead the flag-raising ceremony at her office says the company had to entice the staff with door prizes consisting of iPads and other gadgets to get them to come and stand in the sun and salute the Red and White.
Maybe we’re all just a bit tired of this same old routine, year after year, and talking about the same things and griping about the same old problems. What does independence mean, what is the country all about and why is everything still a mess, etc.
For the older generation who experienced the predemocracy era (and that includes me), beneath the momentary pride of seeing the flag being raised runs a cynicism that is a constant feature since the authoritarian New Order regime. That Indonesia has never been truly free from oppression, first by the Dutch, then the Japanese, and then by our fellow countrymen.
Today, 67 years into independence and a full-fledged democracy, we are still at the mercy of the power, greed and shenanigans of our leaders and political elite, who ensure that the country can never truly be free from the shackles of poverty, inequality, ignorance and narrow-mindedness, and who continue the tradition of trying to get away with as much as they can, while they can until they are booted out of office.
The sentiment about our motherland increasingly becomes one of: great country, shame about the people running it. Our greatest achievement to date, democracy, is becoming the democratization of greed and the grab for power to the lowest levels of government, infecting all who come in touch with it. The only difference is that we now have a free press to talk about it, though the constant public exposure, far from acting as a deterrent, seems only to have made our elite immune to shame and thirsty for publicity. It is the New Order regime at the microlevel without the novelty or the order.
Anyway, enough of this grumbling. Let’s focus instead on counting the ways we love this country and listen to what the young, optimistic and idealistic have to say. The best place these days to get a sense of what young people are thinking about is of course social networks, especially Twitter. There’s even a hashtag to mark this auspicious day, called 17 hopes for Indonesia, which is a world trending topic. And which goes to show that for many young Indonesians there’s still some hope for the country.
And what are these hopes? No corruption is pretty high on the hope list (one tweet says, “mudah-mudahan semua instansi bebas dari tikus-tikus doyan duit/let’s hope all government institutions are free from money-loving rats”), as is the wish for not so many thieves in the country.
“Politicians, don’t sell this country for any reason, let East Timor be the last,” says one. Hmm, some young people obviously think that politicians are selling off the country, literally. There’s “security, independence, unity, no more corruption, poverty, trouble, threats and terrors,” a standard wish. Though this one is more interesting: “peace, justice, welfare, eminence, felicity, benevolence, adequacy, resplendence, magnificence.”
This one I like as a hope: “dihilangkannya manusia alay,” or eliminate all “cheesy” or “tacky” people. I completely agree. This country certainly has more than its fair share of cheesy and tacky people. Especially in high places. A tweet I like is from a young girl who simply posts: “Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down.” Now that’s the spirit.
Desi Anwar is a senior anchor at Metro TV. She can be contacted at desianwar.com and dailyavocado.net.