Bhinneka Tunggal Ika: The Forgotten Legacy

Bhinneka Tunggal Ika is our country’s rule in accepting differences. If anyone asked us the meaning of it, there’s no doubt we can give a prompt and correct answer. But when the question continues to “Have you implement the principals of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika in your everyday lives?” some of us will need time to think. We know the meaning of it, but we’re still uncertain on whether we or other members of the society have implemented it, or rejected it instead.

With so many violence and disintegration dominating the local and international news lately, it seems as if the strength of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika no longer influenced and protected us from fear of being different. From the most extreme religious organizations to our-very-own-selves as the smallest member of society, we have undoubtedly forgotten the importance of staying united.

It’s sad, but it’s a fact, that one of our oldest cultural legacy about the principal of heterogeneity and accepting diversity, has lost its power to unite this colorful country as one.

Often beyond our conscience, we are rejecting differences in order to be aligned with mainstream society and their opinion. When the majority is allowing (or supporting this hatred for diversity), after a certain time everyone will see it as normal, thus create a new culture: self-superiority and pressure for the minority.

I have a friend who feared the influence of different race, as an example. She believed that going to the same school with kids from different race will have a negative impact towards her son.

How can we teach our children and embrace the concept of diversity if we don’t let them ‘touch’ and acquainted different race, religion and ethnicity in the first place?

Another sad example of race discrimination happened to my friend who was applying for a job, and got rejected by the employer because he doesn’t have a certain race and ethnicity. It’s already hard enough for us to find jobs these days, and yet there are still many companies who only accept their own race as employees.

Racial discrimination is not the only problem this country is facing. On a bigger scale, religion continuously used as the reason behind violence and stupid actions. I have a 5 year-old niece who went to this expensive Islamic School asked me “Auntie, is it true that if we were not a Muslim, we will go to hell?” He heard it from friends, and they got it from their parents.

More and more educational institutions are using religion as their identity and marketing strategy and as an answer for high demands from parents who felt it is safer to enroll their children to religious-based schools. Of course there are also big problems such as the discrimination against Ahmadiyah, or the (somehow funny and) confusing statements from MUI (Indonesian Council of Ulema) chairman regarding our national anthem and salutation of the red-white flag.

The recent case is FPI’s statements towards underground music (and musicians), which creates another fear for our youth to have their freedom of expression protected. The way I see it, underground scene has never did any act of violence. And if some people saw it as the music of satan, I personally think that sinetrons and mystical tv shows are barbaric.

But if I want people to respect my choice, then I must learn to respect theirs.

Let’s forget all those major heartbreaking issues for a while, and try to have a look at our own beliefs and respond towards diversity. In the end, every people will have their own definition of good and bad, and like it or not, we must respect their decision. If most of the people said that we have to defend what we believe, than perhaps we must counter the cultural beliefs.

These are bitter truths about the culture of Indonesia. But we live in a country which will always be diversified. We can’t blame anyone for any discrimination if we are keep doing it towards others. As a start, I need to stop discriminating parents who adore religious schools, and I need to accept the fact that most people just couldn’t live without sinetrons.

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(As posted on my “JabberGibber – IMO Blog” post)


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