by Jennie S. Bev
Nationalism is not a new concept. It is, however, often misinterpreted and misused. Regionalism and multiculturalism are more recent concepts, which have not been properly understood.
How we adopt them and adapt our behavior towards such notions would be reflected in our existence as individuals –and a people among peoples and nations– which in the end may influence Indonesia's wide acceptance and respect as a political and economic entity.
The importance in distinguishing and applying the substances of these three concepts is crucial in creating a balanced perspective of how Indonesia perceives the world and how the world perceives Indonesia.
With a balanced pair of eyes, unnecessary frictions among peoples and countries can be reduced, in light of gaining more respect among international communities, and political and economic participants, as it is commonly known Indonesia's brand is not that rosy worldwide.
The recent incidents with Malaysia, for instance, have caused stirs that should have been carefully managed, as they tend to afflict both entities' sense of pride and nationalism.
Delicate issues should be dealt with delicately. This can only be achieved through an understanding of these three concepts.
There are two popular concepts of nationalism, which have been widely accepted by far. The most popular one is John F. Kennedy's passage quoted from his inaugural address on January 20, 1961, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”
This adage connotes loyalty and patriotism, which are two important elements of fundamentalist nationalism. Its popularity has created the so-called mass recognition that has made it a cliché, which can be found in most publications and school papers.
The second widely known concept of nationalism is Benedict Anderson's in his masterpiece Imagined Communities, which was based on his field research in Java, among other Indo China regions.
Anderson agreed on the concept of nationalism as an imagination, a result of deep contemplation and reflection on the importance of developing camaraderie and belongingness for the sake of the greater good within a particular region or within a particular group of people who believe to belong to a particular self-conscious criterion, such as ethnicity, religion, sub-culture, and others.
Edmund Burke, however, offered a different perspective, which is known as "earned" nationalism.
As cited by Dinesh D'Souza in What's So Great about America, "To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.” Apparently, he suggested a genuine patriot loves his or her country not only because it is his or hers, but also because it is good.
Regionalism, as occurs in European Union, is a political and economic community with supranational and intergovernmental features.
It is both an imagined and a legally binding community with multiple layers of binding variables, including common goals and causes.
It is undeniable regionalism has become a widespread trend, including the establishment of looser regional-based communities, such as ASEAN and NAFTA.
Among the members of a regional community union, all members are equal before the law, just like any entity in front of the law in general. This is reflected in the leadership selection, voting, and other decision making processes.
Indonesia and Malaysia are two members of ASEAN, which place both of them equal entities before the law, regardless of whose culture is more diverse and whose economy or political power is greater.
While it is always easier to point other's faults, Indonesia as a self-proclaimed "great nation" should be aware of this equality and act diplomatically but firmly on the underlying issue between these two neighboring countries.
Many references emphasize the conditions of current Indonesian domestic workers in Malaysia as the underlying issue, while it might have been coated with other more recent incidents, such as an immigration raid against a diplomat's wife, the beating of a sports referee and the alleged infringement of Rasa Sayange song.
Assuming this alleged underlying problem is valid, the partial panacea lies in the hands of the political will of Indonesian officials, in which dignity and respect must be instilled in the diplomacy process.
Multiculturalism is the state of both cultural and ethnic diversity within the demographics of a particular social space, in which all cultures and sub-cultures are equally respected without any culture or religion as the predominant one(s).
Pluralism, which is more popular in Indonesia, is somewhat similar with multiculturalism, but has a fundamental distinguishing element.
In conclusion, nationalism, regionalism, and multiculturalism come in all kinds of shades. It is imperative for us all to comprehend the meanings and behave accordingly with an open mind and an open heart.
Only this way, we all can coexist peacefully and meaningfully within and outside the borders of what constitutes our home.
The Jakarta Post, December 4, 2007