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A bold republic

Publication Date : 16-08-2012


One of the taglines of our independence advertisement over the past two days quotes the adage that "freedom lies in being bold". It is a maxim that has repeatedly been proven true throughout the life of the republic.

It was the boldness of a generation of youth in 1908 and 1928 to begin to forge a nation when no such tradition had existed. It was audacious to force independence when no such declaration was intended on the eve of Aug. 17, 1945. We should not forget the group's wisdom to overcome the tyranny of the majority and forge a Constitution that was inclusive and overlooked the potential divisiveness of religion.

There was cunning to push for new hope in the dark days of 1965 and 1998 when the nation veered close to collapse. Then there was the courage of destiny as the nation embarked on the path of free elections in 1999 and implemented regional autonomy in 2001.

For a nation so infamous for its reticent Javanese political culture, in actual fact it has a long, demonstrable history of acting boldly.

Being bold is not about having a "no holds barred, do anything you like" anarchic attitude. Far from it, the boldness of Indonesian history was driven by a moral will to overcome inferior odds because it was necessary for the good of the nation.

The laymen confuse boldness with courage. Yes, courage is part of it. Running forth with a bamboo spear defending the republic in the face of machine guns takes pure guts. But boldness requires something more substantive. It entails decisiveness, wisdom and the will to go against the whim of your peers.

Being bold means being willing to reduce fuel subsidies despite the political backlash of majority voters.

Being bold means taking action on the side of justice against corrupt institutions, irrespective of the embedded interests of ones own party or security.

Boldness is required to take responsibility for the decisions to facilitate progress (development) by forsaking interim interests.

It is only the bold man who will stand up and defend another's opinion even though that view may not be his own and runs contrary to the majority faith.

Where is that boldness found as Indonesians celebrate 67 years of the republic?

It is evident in pockets across the archipelago, among individuals fighting the good fight alone. It is still there, in some corners of intellectual society, which refuse to be dumbed down by righteous mob rallies.

It is, sadly, almost invisible in the higher echelons of power, which seem to be filled with those who are more interested in political and economic gold, rather than acting boldly.

Perhaps that is why, as we reach the heights of our democracy, we are becoming a procedural nation. Everything is done just for the sake of getting it over with. Few initiatives are taken forward with passion.

As we peer into the horizon of a coming recession in 2013, the bonds of the nation are being tested. Boldness is necessary, the kind that has saved the nation before, and if we can rediscover such acumen, we will save it again.


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