To be a nation
Today is August 17th, Independence Day, and Indonesians across the country engage in customary flag-waving and community celebrations. Such is the routine of this annual event - the 59th in Indonesia's history - that most take it for granted.
After the political turmoil and economic hardship of the last few years, many of us just hope to get by, forgetting that our forefathers' sacrifice may have been as great, if not greater, than the challenges of the past six years.
We sometimes forget that our independence - the very essence of humanity - was achieved after the shedding of much blood and tears. Not just over six years, but a relentless effort of generations.
While the present generation may never fully understand the sacrifice of their forefathers, it does not mean that we should forget them. In a similar vein, while there is much to dislike about the current state of events and actions of the nation's political elite, it should not by any means lessen underlying love for this blessed country.
Birthdays and the turn of the year are always poignant moments for reflection. Certainly there is much to exasperate us as we recount the troubles ailing the nation. Economic and social injustice continue to prevail, leaving the nation even farther from its constitutional ideal of creating a "just and civilized society".
The country, in many respects, is failing to provide basic necessities for its people. Some 16 million children do not receive any kind of formal education, while millions more people are living at subsistence level. Even average life expectancy and the literacy rate have dropped. Not surprisingly, the latest UN Human Development Report listed Indonesia as among the bottom third in a list of 177 countries.
The nation's forefathers would likely share our discontent at this state of affairs. But how would they respond when looking at their country as it ends its sixth decade of independence?
They would likely be satisfied that this young nation, in spite of wealth disparities, has moved beyond mere subsistence.
They would sigh with relief that the territorial vision of Indonesia Raya remains intact, despite the wide range of ethnicities that exist across the archipelago.
They would grin at the current political predicaments, as they recall their own crises and ideological battles.
They would also glare with envy at the abundance of wealth produced by our natural resources.
Constitutional-legal debates, the political division of society and issues of separatism are cycles in history. Fate often dooms the next generation to repeat the mistakes of its fathers. But this generation of Indonesia is, at least, acknowledging and attempting to correct much of the malady of the past. The introduction of a new political system, constitutional amendments and a more accountable government through direct elections are baby steps in the formation of a more mature nation. For this, we, and even our forefathers, should be proud.
There are, of course, a host of reasons not to be a proud of this country, many of which we have highlighted earlier. But our determination to take the difficult road to create a more humane society is a triumph that few nations have dared to emulate.
As we quietly commemorate Independence Day at home with our families, it is worthwhile remembering that while the nation may still not provide for millions of its sons and daughters, it promises hope, the benefits of which will, perhaps, be reaped by the nation's grandchildren.
(This post is taken verbatim from the editorial in yesterday's Jakarta Post