How arts and sports can save the youth from extremism
If a growing tree is analogous to the process of civilization in Indonesia, Pancasila is the cultural root that shapes the character of the nation. The tree cannot live and grow without the root to support its metabolism. Pancasila as the foundation of the country is the root of the basic livelihood of community and development of the state. Therefore, any attempt to uproot Pancasila equals an attempt to wipe the very existence of Indonesia as a nation and state.
It has been 72 years since the root of Indonesia was planted as the foundation and livelihood of a free nation. Huge sacrifices were made to achieve freedom. But such achievement is being tested as extremists are trying to uproot the very foundation of people’s culture laid on Pancasila’s principles and replace it with another principle to create a new state – to be exact, a caliphate.
To create a homogenous culture in a multicultural society as the extremists envision is against the universal law. It is also denying the objective fact that the human society in general is diverse. Thus the act of homogenizing culture indeed denies the public policies based on human consensus to create better civilization.
Indeed, the first principle of Pancasila “Belief in one and only God” demonstrates a faith in a supreme deity is in every aspect of life in the country. However, any attempt to dispose of Pancasila based on religious scriptures should be examined as such verses might no longer be relevant with the contemporary society. A fragment from an ancient time should not be imposed to shape today’s civilization.
If the idea to eliminate the diverse and pluralistic Indonesia stems from the will of an almighty God, then the next question is: Isn’t it God who created diversity from the very beginning? Surely the very diversity that God has created should not be dismantled.
Clearly the idea to remove Pancasila is driven by political motive that only uses religion as an instrument of mass mobilization.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s decision to issue Government Regulations in lieu of Law No.2/2017 on Mass Organizations (Perppu Ormas) is arguably a correct move against extremist mass organizations in the country. However, since the government is not only facing raw political moves, a cultural approach is also needed to counter extremism. Strengthening the cultural front can help prevent further ideological propagation among the vulnerable mass.
The first step should be an education reform to cultivate thinking based not only on belief in God but also in natural and social sciences. Religious education in class has often failed to promote tolerance and moral character. Compulsory religious course in every school should be abolished and replaced by conduct of life courses to build the real character of the nation. School drop outs should be taken care of, as they are the most vulnerable and can easily fall into the hands of extremists.
The government through Ministerial of Education and Culture should be involved directly in facilitating cultural events and public art activities. The creative spirit and people innovation should be encouraged. Such activities should be held periodically. Character building efforts through art and cultural activities from the post-independence era should be reinstated.
A public space for community interaction should be facilitated to build the spirit of solidarity and loyalty. The Minister of Youth and Sport should encourage and facilitate every form of sports competition from the local up to the national levels.
Art and sports can fill the cultural vacuum as a result of political and economic struggle that has overwhelmed national agenda since its independence. Art and sports are not only productive and constructive form of entertainment, but also an alternative activity that can shield people from religious indoctrination.
Religious extremism does not gain power from inequality in society or seize mass in the gap between the rich and the poor. One overlooked explanation is the cultural vacuum existed since the shift from the society’s rural agriculture tradition to industrial one. Long-held tradition is now left behind by modern society, who rarely has time for arts and sports. Instead, religious indoctrination slips in and thrives for it serves economic and political interests. Religious programs are popular on TV, and politicians can easily achieve their interests by misusing religions.
Art and sports ought not to be regarded as merely entertainment, but also an instrument to shape intellectuality and characters of the young generation. The cultural approach through art and sports can cultivate self-determination and self-confidence in the youth. The creative spirit and expression in art will lead to the critical mind and soul of the nation. Sport and art activities through any forms facilitated by the government is the best instrument to protect “unity and diversity” from disintegration sought after by the extremists.
The writer is a painter who is exhibiting his works under the theme “Arus Balik Cakrawala 2017” at the National Gallery, Jakarta from Sept. 14 to Oct. 4.
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