Is Indonesia Stuck in the Past?

Over the summer break, I took a humanities class which had a research assignment that prompted me to look at the Indonesian society and a key factor that shapes their values. It did not take me long to realize one problem that frustrates me to no end (and why I never really do any research–casual or formal–relating to my home country): it’s so hard to find credible sources!

Not that Indonesia does not have any credible academic papers or accountable reportings, but not a lot of it is available online. Given that I was in Hong Kong and was not able to physically visit Indonesian bookstores or libraries to scour through information, I wanted so badly to change my research topic just so I do not have to cite anything or refer to any Indonesia-related information academically. Sure, there are a lot of blogposts and articles posted online, but even our high school teachers would discourage us from citing them. I used to think that they were old fashioned, but now that I flip through the online articles and read the contents… I realize just how right my past teachers were in pushing us to get our references from actual printed material. The quality just isn’t the same! Even our national paper, unlike the national papers of more developed countries, has different teams in charge of their printed newspapers and online site, and the difference of quality between the two is very evident, even to the average reader.

This problem does not occur when I conduct my researches in English, because cultures with English as (one of) their official language(s) tend to be more developed and hence keep up with the latest technologies and also transfer information from physical archives to digital. (For example, Google is mass-scanning loads and loads of books into their Google Books database, but for mostly English books, of course. Language barrier? You mean language gap?) Also, unlike English Wikipedia articles that take an average of 2 minutes for wrong information to be corrected, the Indonesian-speaking community does not have that sort of manpower capacity to scan through digital articles every second of every day, unlike the English speakers, whose language is one of the most widely lingos in the world.

It’s hard to not compare the two cultures you equally belong to (and equally unable to identify with). One is so much easier to navigate digitally, while the other is still persistent to having high quality material in physical form–the digital is not for everyone. I’m not saying one culture is better than the other–after all, I do feel that each culture does have its own pros and cons and my comfort zones are different in both. But using the current globalized culture as the standard, Indonesia does seem to be a culture that is stuck back in time. Although that might not be completely true either. Sure, some stuff takes more time to catch on in Indonesia, but didn’t tongsis become a buzzword before “selfie stick” did?

Maybe my views are so because I am now residing in Hong Kong, a fast-paced city in which you’d be left behind (not to mention elbowed and shouted at when your pace is slower than the crowd’s), I’m experiencing two very contrasting cultures and am slowly adapting to one more than the other. Maybe it’s because I’m living in Hong Kong now and no longer Indonesia that I refer to the culture in Hong Kong as more “modern” and Indonesia as “in the past” (because that’s how my life journey goes. I went from Indonesia to Hong Kong, and so I view the cultures as relative to my life journey–to not use the word “progression” as diction can indicate I’m belittling one culture). Maybe it’s also because I haven’t really lived in Indonesia for two years, and so all the stories I hear about and all the experiences I encounter resemble those two years ago. And a lot can happen in two years. Am I progressing? Am I regressing? Who knows? The painful truth is that I don’t know which direction I’m going in.

At the end of the day, it might not be Indonesia that’s stuck in the past. Perhaps it’s just me not wanting to face my past, what with putting it all behind me and all the cultural contexts and communities involved in it. After all, I did make a graceful exit through menuntut pendidikan di luar negeri (pursuing a degree overseas).

Blueaholic is listening to: Hayley Kiyoko – Gravel to Tempo
(Caught up with the fact that life will be dark / But can we handle being kids?)

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