Armani Exchange : Studded Eagle

and Indonesia's national logo, the Garuda Pancasila

I was alerted by my friend the other day to a shocking photo on the Armani Exchange website. Armani had used a logo resembling, or perhaps even parodying, the national symbol of the Garuda Pancasila on a T-shirt called “the Studded Eagle”. My initial reaction was shock. I felt that an icon that has represented Indonesia as a country for decades had been ridiculed. Even worse, it was appropriated by people in some foreign country that didn't have a clue what it meant or stood for.

Over the next few hours, national opinion became split between those who felt proud that an international brand like Armani could be inspired by the Garuda Pancasila – it is a nice shirt, after all - and those who felt outraged. It took a while to sort things out for myself, but now I finally know where I stand. Back in school during the Suharto era, I was taught to sit up straight in class and listen to what my teachers said, even when I knew they were wrong. I was taught never ask too many questions, especially about why Golkar won every election.

I was forced to attend militaristic flag-raising ceremonies every Monday, standing for hours and hours under the scorching sun just to recite the five principles of Pancasila and listen to the Declaration of Independence and the opening words of the Constitution. I’m happy to say those days are over now. What stayed in my head, though, was the undisputed fact that the red and white flag I saluted every week in school and the Garuda Pancasila were something like sacred objects not to be messed with. It was a notion that was virtually unchallenged before the controversy.

I was brought up to believe that it was a cardinal sin to have the national flag on your bikini, like those Americans in their skimpy red white and blue bathing suits. To have the Garuda Pancasila tattooed on your arm was just taboo. But guess what? Those tattoo-loving flag desecrators in other countries are probably more patriotic and fiercely proud of their countries than the average Indonesian. Recently, I watched a television show where the host asked prominent politicians and lawmakers to sing the national anthem. None of them made it to the third verse. I remember going to a movie theater in junior high. The cinema asked people to rise and sing the national anthem before the movie started because it was Independence Day.

I was appalled to see that most of the audience members only giggled and whispered to each other about how strange that was. I was not one of them. I rose and sang my lungs out. I love my country and feel very proud to be an Indonesian. I have lived in the glitz and glamour of Jakarta and have traveled to the remote jungles of Kalimantan and what I’ve learned through the years is that Indonesia is more than just symbols, icons and mottos.

To be an Indonesian to me is doing my part for my country in any way I can, whether as a student rallying for change in 1998 or as a journalist twelve years later asking a very heartfelt question: "How can a country as rich in natural resources, culture and history as Indonesia be as not-so-rich as now ?” And that's how I made my decision. I'm not going to buy one of those Armani T-shirts. Not because they’re not cool -- but because they’re awfully overpriced.

(Nivell Rayda of The Jakarta Globe)

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