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 Jakarta post

 by Jennie S. Bev 

Along with Serbia, Iraq, Iran and North Korea, the peace-building approach in Indonesia is both polarizing and dualistic. In a term used by Johan Galtung, these traits are “manicheistic.”

Manicheism itself is a term originated from religious studies referring to a dualistic system of good and bad. In this case, it is referring to a preference in a security-oriented approach, rather than in a peace-oriented approach.

In Indonesia, the state prefers to see “security” as identical to “peace.”

Indonesia must learn to adopt peace-oriented approaches in both daily living and policy making activities and attitudes. Failure to do so will exacerbate the already tarnished face of peaceful Indonesia with ongoing violent incidents and persecutions of minorities. By adopting a peace-oriented rather than a security-oriented approach, Indonesia will be able to cultivate peace from the ground up, where human rights — including minority rights — are upheld respectfully.

First things first. What is “peace”? Is it the absence of war? Is it the absence of conflict? The opposite of peace is not conflict, but violence. Thus, a peaceful situation transpires when violence does not occur, even though conflict might still exist. It is impossible to eliminate conflict entirely as it is needed in the transformation process toward a more mature democracy.

The definition of “peace” itself has undergone a lengthy evolution. In the Hobbesian paradigm, peace is an individual and collective means fostering ethical transformation and aspiration to eliminate human-inflicted destruction. Ideally, in a healthy democracy, “positive peace” continuously guarantees the people’s pursuit of happiness, in which justice, equity, and liberty serve as the underlying background.

Second, the peace-building approach adopted in Indonesia is security-oriented, in which polarization and dualism — referred to as “manicheism” by Galtung — are used as the framework. For instance, Pancasila, the state ideology, is good, communism is bad. Having a religion is good, not having a religion is bad. Indonesian conservatism is good, neoliberalism is bad. Indonesian customs are good, Western influences are bad. And so on.

In this approach, the “evil” entity or action deserves to be punished legally or through social sanctions. And the militaristic involvement in handling conflict is the highest form of violence based on this approach.

Such a security-oriented approach should be substituted with —or at least should be instilled with— a peace-oriented approach. A peace-oriented approach doesn’t polarize or dualize an entity or an action as either good or bad.

An entity or an action is neutral, while the only difference is whether the conflict caused has been resolved or transformed or not. Don’t blame the individuals, blame the situation. Work on the situation to make it better.

A peace culture is, thus, an important element in socializing a peace-oriented approach. It should aim at conscious and subconscious levels and on individual-level and state-level plateaus. Public arts and cultural synergies are oftentimes overlooked, yet they serve important roles.

In cultural synergies, every culture must be respected equally without any dominance over others.

Learning from the United States, the philosophy of “otherness” has diminished considerably over the years. While isolated hate crime incidents still occur, the national philosophy over “otherness” has changed dramatically, especially with the election of Barack Obama as president. In multiethnic states, such as California and Florida, “otherness” is minimized.

The recent statement by Indonesian Justice and Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar saying that the government is no longer searching for the perpetrators of the May 1998 tragedy responsible for the rape and death of Chinese-Indonesian women, is a classic example of the state’s clever usage of a misconception in the security-oriented approach. Here, upholding human rights contradicts the misconception of “peace.”

Let me reiterate that conflict is not the opposite of peace. Violence is the opposite of peace. The minister wants us to believe that peace is the opposite of conflict, as investigating the perpetrators would definitely cause new conflict. Truth is, failure to address this issue is a sure way to new violent incidents.

Quiet forgottenness is not the same as peace either.

Human rights come in two forms: negative and positive. “Negative rights” refer to rights that need to be protected, such as the fundamental right to live and minority rights to exist. “Positive rights” refer to rights that need to be provided, such as rights to healthcare, education, and welfare.

As a minimum, Indonesia must always uphold fundamental rights, which are rights that need to be protected. Failure to do so serves as a fertile ground for violence, hence disrupting the overall balance of peace.

We can start as individuals by adopting a peaceful lifestyle, insisting on respect for fundamental human rights, and respecting other cultures as much as our own. []

The Jakarta Post, May 19, 2010

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