Last Sunday, June 8, 2008, after interviewing some participants of students exchange (AFS program), I was involved in a chit-chat with some other volunteers. One of them, a middle-aged woman, wearing jilbab, has a Japanese course at her dwelling place. Another one, a man at his mid-thirties, just opened an English course in Semarang some time ago, after he lived in Jakarta for around fifteen years.


There are two main interesting topics we talked.

1. Nationalism
The woman I mentioned above said about the young generations in Indonesia who did not have enough nationalism. One guest teacher she got from Japan encouraged her to evoke nationalism in her students before they go to Japan. (Note: her institution often gives Japanese training for those who will go to Japan to work.) The guest teacher said that the young generations did not have enough nationalism. It was proven from what they said about their own country when they were in Japan.

As a comparison, Japanese young generations, as well as Korean who work in Japan, have high nationalism so that they do not want to talk bad things about their country.

From the way the woman talked about that, and her concern with the low nationalism among the young generations, I concluded that she tended to scold them, without trying to dig out more deeply what caused it. Therefore, sadly I said, “Well, I don’t really blame them. Let’s take a corruption case as an example. What happened if one government official—let’s say a minister—in Japan was found out that he allegedly was involved in a corruption case? He perhaps would resign from his position, or even would do ‘harakiri’. What happened if that happened in Indonesia? Even in Semarang, there is one government official who has been suspected to get involved in a corruption case, he, without shame, still moves on to join the gubernatorial election.”

Feeling concerned about this matter, on Tuesday June 10, I asked one class of mine—there were twelve students present, varying from the second until sixth semester at college—to discuss the cause why nationalism decreased among the young generations. I divided them into three groups. I didn’t tell them what I said in the chit-chat two days before in order that I didn’t ‘interfere’ their way of thinking. Nevertheless, the three groups agreed that one main reason was the leadership crisis among the government officials, it resulted in the young generations’ disappointment toward the government. They felt embarrassed toward Indonesian ‘reputation’ as the most corrupted country.

Some other reasons mentioned were:

  •  Impacts of globalization where the information was not filtered. One example mentioned was when the young generations see a prosperous life in another country, one thing they hardly find in Indonesia nowadays, it will make them dream to live abroad.
  • Impact of being colonized for some centuries so that we felt inferior toward the colonial country.
  • Not good educational system, proven by the continuous changing in the curricula every time a new minister of education is elected
  • Protection from the government toward the citizens is bad.
  • Disbelieve in our own products
  • Not preserving our original cultures

Unfortunately, since we didn’t have enough time to discuss, I could not explore more of their answers. I assume, however, it was enough to know the voice of the young generations why they would choose to live abroad, even probably to change their nationality in case they get a good job, good salary and enough facility in another country.

2. Religion
The guy living in Jakarta for more than a decade complained about the impolite behavior among children and teenagers in Jakarta. He mentioned the non-religiosity as one main cause of the bad behavior. One example: during Ramadhan month (the holy fasting month for Muslim), people no longer showed empathy toward other people who perhaps were fasting. Without feeling shy—moreover sinful—people enjoyed having meals in public places. Another example was the bigger tendency for people to have free sex recently without feeling ashamed.

On the contrary, he said, living in Semarang—one much smaller city than the metropolis Jakarta—was much more peaceful. Children and teenagers in Semarang behaved much better than their counterparts in the capital of Indonesia.
“The key, in fact, lies in religious teachings.” he said

I kept quiet.

Then the woman told us a story one time she got an exchange student from Japan staying at her house. A little chat on religion happened between her and the student in the beginning of their encounter.

She asked: “What is your religion”

The student answered, “I don’t have religion. Should I adhere one religion if I live in Indonesia?”

The woman responded, “Oh, you don’t need to. That’s fine. Forgive my nosy question, please.” (Nana’s note: it seems to me that “what is your religion” has become one very common question asked in the first meeting with someone.)

The student said, “My parents never teach me about religion. They strongly teach me not to harm other people, though.”
The woman commented, (to us, to sum up her chat with the student) “See? In fact it is as simple as that the way Japanese raise their children. Don’t harm other people. And I assume that is the key of all religions.”

Then I simply said, “You know what? In Indonesia, adhering religion is very important, even it is a must, I guess, because we are taught that religious people are better than the non-believers. And many cases happen where religious people think that they even can make use of their religions to do violence to others and they don’t feel ashamed or sinful because they believe they harm other people in the name of God.”
Hearing my saying, the woman nodded solemnly, while the guy smiled, a bit embarrassed. 🙂

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