Thank, don’t hate, Malaysia — Samsuri Nugroho
AUG 3 — Not patriotic, my wife said as I typed the title of this post.
Malaysia bears an undeniable resemblance to Indonesia. From their culture, religion, way of life, down to their physiological structure, the similarities between our neighbour and us are undeniable. But because of our proximity and similarity, the potential for conflict is high and can start from the littlest things.
These past five years — perhaps even longer —Indonesia-Malaysia relations have gone through a rough patch. Aside from the maltreatment of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia, tension was fuelled by our neighbouring country’s claiming of certain areas and cultural traditions as theirs.
But in doing so, Malaysia has disturbed the sense of nationalism that was lying dormant within many Indonesians. Once limp hands are now suddenly clenched, as if waiting to smite any challenging opponent. One must therefore give credit to Malaysia. They are certainly able to rouse Indonesians, from ignorance to becoming well-informed, to evoke our sense of ownership. Throughout history we have neglected and now we care, not because of introspection but aroused as a defence mechanism. With the massive Indonesian reaction to Malaysia’s claims, not only traditional artists but the government came to the defence of our culture.
As a result, traditional arts have developed rapidly and now co-exist with modern culture. Now, simple folk arts can be easily found. The art of ndolalak, jathilan, wayang wong, angguk, kethoprak, wayang kulit and dances have now become the main spectacle everywhere from villages to luxurious hotels. Fifteen years ago, it would have been considered of low standard and taste if a renowned private bank or the opening of a five-star hotel presented traditional arts as a form of entertainment. Nowadays, that is no longer true. It isn’t impossible to find a local village act performing on the same stage as divas in a gala event.
As someone whose hobbies include music and attending shadow puppets performance, I would like to thank Malaysia for making traditional arts and culture an issue among Indonesians, especially government officials, who are now increasingly on guard against threats to our tradition. Without the support and backing of our government officials, preserving, let alone promoting, our cultural heritage is a difficult task. Ceremonial events, festivals, traditional contests, carnivals and cultural shows will be easier to hold with the government as our champion. Mere discussions about cultural preservation without the understanding of culture are senseless.
At the same time, we need to be accepting and appreciative of foreign cultures as well. We mustn’t only expect others to appreciate our culture but are un-accepting of theirs.
For this reason, we must not hate Malaysia; rather we must thank them for affirming our nationalism. — The Jakarta Globe
* Samsuri Nugroho is headmaster at a vocational high school in Yogyakarta that focuses on music.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.