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How do young members of Indonesian diaspora define nationalism?
Publication Date : 19-08-2013
It may be just a coincidence that Congress Indonesian Diaspora (CID) II in Jakarta, a meeting that gathers Indonesians living and working abroad, will take place just after the celebration of the 68th anniversary of Indonesia’s independence on August 17.
It might just be a coincidence that CID II on August 18-20 comes in the midst of the many problems facing Indonesia, such as corruption, religious conflict, increasing food prices, etc. You are right, it might be just a perfect coincidence that CID II will be held at this time.
However, there is something that we cannot deny that amid the current problems faced by Indonesia and at Indonesia’s 68th anniversary of independence, there is a new wave of nationalism coming from abroad. People with strong determination, new ideas and an international network are joining hands to work together with local governments, local universities and local communities in Indonesia to find possible solutions.
For way too long we have defined nationalism in a small box of perspective that limits our point of view on how to contribute to Indonesia. We try to simplify nationalism, by saying that an Indonesian should reside in Indonesia, by saying that an Indonesian has to work and earn a living in Indonesia. Yes, it has been far too long that this definition has shackled our true spirit of nationalism.
We have to realise that the world is changing and, like it or not, we have to change with it. We have to understand that the world is borderless. Information changes every second and we can collect that information from every corner of the world through the cyberworld. With the current situation, there is a new definition of nationalism. That nationalism is not about from where you can contribute to Indonesia but about what you can contribute to Indonesia.
It doesn’t really matter where we work or live, but you have to ask yourself “Do you still love your country despite all things that have occurred” and “What is your contribution to your country?” These are valid and important questions.
Our founding fathers gave the example that international cooperation, diplomacy and support should be carried out in order to optimize Indonesia’s potential without compromising its sovereignty. Indonesia should be able to stand with its head held high in the international forum, employing mutual cooperation and actively contributing as a problem solver among other nations.
How, as a young member of the diaspora, do we view this new definition of nationalism? And more importantly, what can young member of the diaspora do in this new wave of nationalism?
Many young Indonesians study abroad to gain knowledge and have the opportunity to build an international network, or others in the early part of their careers work for multinational companies as a field engineer, a junior accountant, a junior engineer or as something else. They get used to an international working environment.
Many young members of the diaspora plan not only for themselves but also for their country, Indonesia. What they do now may seem inconsequential, and we may never have heard of most of them. But 17 or 27 years from now when Indonesia is at her top economic performance (based on the McKinsey report on Indonesia 2030 economic prediction), these young Indonesians are the nation’s golden generation. They are the ones who will define the direction in which Indonesia moves. On their shoulders, we put the faith of our nation, whether Indonesia will rise to a golden era or fall and miss its opportunity.
Young expatriate Indonesians realize this condition and are therefore starting to organize themselves, to make a network, to share visions and to plan future action. This is evident in that since 2007, Indonesian students abroad initiated the Overseas Indonesian Students Association Alliance (OISAA) in Australia, and in 2009, the International Symposium of Indonesian Student Association in Netherlands was organized. In the same year, Indonesian scholars abroad established the International Indonesian Scholars Association (IISA) as a scientific network of young members of the Indonesian diaspora.
Finally 2012, the Indonesian Diaspora organized the Congress Indonesian Diaspora in the United States, which almost 4,000 people from all over the world attended. These milestones are important in Indonesian history, where young Indonesians abroad are realizing that there is new wave of nationalism, a new spirit of contribution; that it is not from where you contribute to Indonesia that matters but what you contribute to Indonesia.
Is this enough? Of course not, young Indonesians abroad have the responsibility to expand the network among Indonesians, promoting a new Indonesian spirit of nationalism and initiating communication not only between Indonesia but also with non-Indonesians. This is important because in the end, Indonesia has to be able to position herself in the world community. Not merely as a market, but as a global economic and political player.
Can we do that? Of course we can. We have all the necessary instruments to become a powerful global player. We have mountains of unexplored natural resources, we have potential human resources and, more importantly, we have these young members of the Indonesian diaspora who have a powerful international networks and brilliant ideas for Indonesia.
Indonesia will define a new spirit of nationalism that knows no borders, with the confidence to become a global player that will transform its vision into prosperity for Indonesia. This will be the spirit of young members of the Indonesian diaspora. During the Congress Indonesian Diaspora II, young Indonesians living abroad will show this spirit and must show this spirit to usher in a new era for Indonesia. Merdeka!
The writer, who is pursuing a PhD in marine science at University of Leiden in the Netherlands, is a recipient of Indonesian Diaspora Award 2012 for Youth Activism