Sunday, April 12, 2009

VJ#42/IV/2009 : Citizenship in Democratic Society

Sudah lama saya tidak menulis di blogs ini. Karena kesibukan, dan juga karena kemalasan. Kangen. Tiba-tiba teringat sebuah essay mengenai masyarakat demokrasi, kewarganegaraan, kepemimpinan dan peran remaja pada tiga hal itu, yang sejatinya saya tujukan untuk sebuah lomba essay. Sungguh sayang apabila essay ini hanya berakhir di folder terdalam dari PC saya. Oleh karena itu, saya ingin membaginya dengan anda para pembaca blogs setia saya.
Selamat menikmati (Dialih bahasa oleh sahabat saya, Sekar Rara) :

As one of the countries supporting democracy in South East Asia, The Republic of Indonesia has indeed a lot of resources that other developed countries would need. Regarding the world trade, Indonesia is strategically located, because it is surrounded by the main two continents (e.g. Asian and Australian), as well as two oceans (e.g. Hindia and Pacific). Following China and India, Indonesia is in the third place having the largest population, which makes this country become the third largest country supporting democracy, and have the largest Moslem citizen in the world. In addition, Indonesia has proudly announced its independency for over 60 years, indicating that Indonesian citizen has had a great amount of opportunities to independently manage their country natural resources. These resources supposedly have been used to satisfy the citizens’ well-being and wealth without any interventions from other countries. However, those amazing facts have not been able to include Indonesia in one of the world most developed countries. Instead, United Nations and all developed countries put Indonesia in the category of developing countries. In other words, the term of “developing country” has been used as a more polite term to explain poor and under-developed countries. Unfortunately, the decision to view Indonesia as a developing country is surprisingly true. Recent facts have shown that the development in the field of economy, education, and technology is far behind its neighbors (e.g. Malaysia and Singapore). The irony can further be well-described by an famous idiom in Indonesia “rat that dies in the middle of rice barn”. To be precise, there are still a lot of very poor people in Indonesia that have not been able to meet their daily needs while in fact, Indonesia has many natural resources. As cited in Antara News website, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the current president of Republic of Indonesia, mentioned that there were still 19.2 milion poor families or about 36.3% of the total population. Similarly, World Bank stated that there were 108 million poor families (about 49% of the total population), and this amount showed the biggest and the worst poverty that has happened in Indonesia since the last 36 years. The government‘s efforts to support economic development have also been delayed due to the increased amount of people having no job, as been stated by one of representatives of Indonesian Parliement (. In 2004, the case of jobless people reached 9.7%, and this number increased to 10.3% in 2005. Work opportunities in Indonesia also showed no positive trends in 2006, because the unemployed people were increasing to 11.1%. In total, there were more than 40 million people had no job at the end of 2006.

Several factors may contribute to the incapability of the Indonesian government to pursue similar progresses in developing the country, as what other countries would do. However, I would mostly like to point out that the primary cause of the poor development is due to the serious cases of corruption that have happened for ages, and have caused some deficits in the Revised National Budget. Additionally, corruption has become the most common thing that Indonesian people do, from those who work in formal institutions (e.g. from government elite to staffs), as well as those who have jobs in other fields (e.g. businessman). The statement was supported by Transparency International (TI) by conducting a survey regarding the measure of corruption level from September-December 2008. In particular, many businessmen in Indonesia were asked about their perceptions whether it was common or not for the government agents in the level of province to perform corruptions. The survey also measured the government’s efforts to seriously fight against corruptions. The results then showed that based on the Corruption Perception Index (IPK) measured in the survey, Indonesia was on the 126th rank from 180 countries, and scored 2.6 points (e.g. scales ranges from 1 = the most corruption cases, to 10 = the least corruption cases). Further, there was only a slight increase from last year, when Indonesia scored 2.3 points in 2007. As cited in Kompas Newspaper dated on the February 25th, 2008, Indonesian Corruption Perception Index (IPK) scored 2.72 points during the last few years in average. Other news from similar resource also cited the facts from Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) that Indonesia was always included in the top-three countries having the most corruption cases for the last 4 years (since 2004).

Therefore, due to the severe actions of corruptions, there are a lot of negative consequences do occur. The most serious problem is that there has been a significant increase in the number of poverty in the last five years. This terrible situation has further failed this government responsibilities stated in the 1945 Constitution of Indonesian Republic to be appropriately executed. Unfortunately, the crisis does not only occur in some under-developed provinces in Indonesia, but also arises in Jakarta, which becomes the capital city of Republic of Indonesia. As the most modern and the biggest city in Indonesia, there still are a lot of people living in terrible poverties. In addition, the number of poor people increased almost double fold when Indonesian global crisis occurred in 1998. Another consequence of the crisis was many children in Jakarta could not continue their studies due to financial reasons. Therefore, these children are inevitably forced to work, which includes becoming newspaper boys, beggars, or doing any other possible informal works. However, at the end of 2008, Indonesian government was still doing some attempts to deal with the children who quit school. In its cooperation with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, Indonesia was given US$113 million or approximately 1.4 trillion Rupiahs for funding the free school programs for these children. In particular, the programs include “Let’s go to school” (“Ayo, Sekolah! “), making school free for everyone. However, those interesting programs have failed to invite the children to study and enjoy the facilities given. The need to get a proper education is indeed lower than the need to support their life and families, so they choose to keep on working instead. As cited in, the number of children quitting their elementary school and junior high school are still high. According to National Education Department, there were 1002 elementary school and 2172 junior high school students that were not able to higher educations in 2006/2007. Additionally, it was found that the main reason for quitting school was because they have to support their family needs. Unemployed and bankrupt parents, as well as children having low interests in education may also contribute to a high number of children giving up their school for informal street jobs.

Given the terrible facts about the problems that Indonesian citizens experience, are there any contributions from young generations to help the country achieve better condition?. Indeed, participations from young people have had play significant roles in many national events that support Indonesia development. Their roles, for example, may be obviously shown in continuous massive supports to achieve Indonesian Independency in 1945, as well as overthrowing the authority of previous president, Soeharto, in 1998. This may happen because there were some believes occuring in public that young generations were seen as the most effective agents of change, as well as the only trusted community agent supporting citizen main privileges. A lot of people indeed put much more hopes to this young generation than the local government in making Indonesia as a better place to live. However, in recent times, there has been a growing pessimism that young generations can no longer be the agents of change. The main reason is that nowadays, many young people become more materialistic and consumptive due to the capitalism attacks in 3F (Food, Fashion, and Films). This tendency was indeed confirmed by the recent surveys conducted by Surindo in 2000, which was investigating the patterns of teenage behaviors in 9 big cities in Indonesia (e.g Jakarta, Bandung, and Surabaya). The results showed that their living styles were mostly glamorous. Students from various institutions shopping in malls were the participants, and it was found that their behaviors showed more tendencies of ignoring other surroundings, chatting with the same teenagers in big cliques and smoking a lot. These facts are not surprising, considering that these behaviors have become the common teenage styles for the last few years. Additionally, as cited in another source,, in the last 10-15 years, teenagers living in big cities in Indonesia have shown more juvenile sexual and social deviances in public. Fighting with other teenagers from different schools and any other kind of deviances exposed by the media has made public have a lot of negative perceptions about teenagers, such as, community perceives that teenagers are now not able to fight for the equity of public privileges, as well as becoming great agents of change for the country. Teenagers are now mostly viewed as young people who love to hanging out with friends in consumptive and materialistic patterns.

Furthermore, pessimistic views about young generations can never be changed or become worse if we, as one of the young people, do not create the changes. Now, it is the time for young generations to show up in the front line in supporting the development of Republic of Indonesia, so they further can give their contributions to the country. They can not only perform several acts of demonstrations on the street, but also perform more concrete actions that can directly make benefits to the community. However, to do such great attempts is not easy, considering the fact that young people are frequently having difficulties to give their constructive opinion to the government. Hence, what is the most effective way to encourage good changes in this country? One of the tangible actions is improving the quality of the education system through establishing independent education institutions. The aim is to share knowledge to students who are not able to study in formal schools, for free. According to National Education Department the number of Non-Government Organization asking permission to create the center of learning activities for students increased significantly from previous years. This learning center is a place that allows any kind of active learning processes to occur, which is managed independently by NGO as one form of community social responsibilities (e.g. from providing facilities, teachers, and ensure the continuity of learning process). It is amazing to know that in fact, the number of such learning center reached 427 in 2007, and they are located in different places in Indonesia. The most importantly, there are 6825 students studying in these independent learning centers. Therefore, as what expected by all principals in this independent institution, those students can learn about formal and moral educations, which further lead to the shaping of good individual behaviors and characters. As a consequence, the number of cases showing moral degradations (e.g. corruptions) is expected to decrease, because these children has been taught not to take something that does not belong to him or her in school. However, there is still one big challenge to run the learning centre independently, considering that government do not give much financial supports. Hence, in order to manage the learning activities to operate smoothly, the organization has to actively promote these activities so they can attract companies (e.g. sponsorships) and other people who want to personally donate.

Moreover, many young people are working in one of those independent learning centers as volunteers. Thoits and Hewiit (2001) defines volunteering as an activity in which someone can give his or her time and skills possessed in performing some tasks or works without expecting any direct financial benefits. Additionally, Volunteering Australia Inc, also states that volunteering means activities that are not performed for profitable organizations or projects. Instead, volunteering includes activities that give benefits to society and the volunteers, and those activities are performed without being forced to do so by others, as well as without any financial compensation. To give a clear explanation about volunteering, I conducted an interview to one of the teenage volunteers in 2008, investigating the reasons to volunteer. She then explained that by volunteering, she was able to practice the way she taught, because she planned to be a kindergarten teacher in the future. She also mentioned that volunteering has given her the ultimate happiness in her life; because by sharing knowledge to others, she could help a lot of poor children achieve their bright future. This could be an interesting point because despite the more patterns of hedonistic behaviors in teenager that has occurred these days, there are still teenagers doing good social activities aiming to help others. Therefore, by doing concrete actions presented above, it is promising to say that all teenagers could give tangible contributions to their country if they have strong wills to do that. One of the most plausible strategies is to show our belongingness to society, or in this case, our citizenship. This may be done by being an active member who always supports any good progresses that happen in his or her own society. As cited in, it is stated that the dimensions of citizenship include sharing with others, wanting to cooperate, encouraging a better school and environment, participating in most community events, as well as physically and socially ensuring the security of one’s own surroundings. Therefore, being a volunteer in an independent learning center has clearly shown that someone or teenager who does it, has already had high sense of citizenship. If a teenager has made contributions to the country, it means that he has had his own future vision and mission about what he expects the society to become in the future. That is to say that he already has got his own strategies to voice and act his opinion without directly seeing the government elite or staff. Regarding this case, we could learn much from the current President of United Stated of America, President Barrack Obama. He could amazingly convince most American people and especially to the world, that he has the greatest vision and mission about how he would view America in the future. Obama starts his jobs as an agent of change in America by asking his citizens to altogether support his programs, as well as supporting many poor people that previously had difficulties in taking benefits from their rights as American citizen. We could also learn from Obama that age does not matter in determining someone’s credibility to be a world leader. It will be more objective to view whether someone is appropriate or not to be a leader by considering the level of one’s integrity, commitment, and how well he personally understands his own people. Therefore, many young people should be confident admitting that they have their own strengths such as competency, integrity, capability, creativity, idealism, and the most importantly, moral commitment as basic skills and knowledge required to develop their country, Republic of Indonesia.

References :

Thoits, Peggy A., & Hewitt, Lyndi N. (2001). Volunteer Work and Well-Being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 42, 115-131.

Volunteering Australia Inc. (2005). Definitions and Principles of Volunteering. Australia

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