.. welcome to the mothership: Indonesia

.. welcome to the mothership: Indonesia
info gambar utama

Michael L. Bak

Dynamic Asia. Amazing Asia. Rising Asia. Wherever you turn, wherever you read, wherever you tweet, facebook or youtube, nothing could be as clear; Asia is where it’s at.  Action. Growth. Change. If Asia is the future, then welcome to the mothership: Indonesia.

China is dominating the world’s headlines and cover pages; are we now witnessing the fall of the West and the rise of the rest, or as The Economist most recently put it: “is America ready to be Number 2”? We’d be forgiven for instantly gazing China-ward. Even the OECD says China will become the number one economy in 2016; but there’s a whole lot of Asia out there that’s not the Middle Kingdom. It’s the Asian Century after all, and Indonesia is leading the charge.

Indonesia’s democratic credentials bolster its confidence in regional security and economic matters, from Myanmar’s transition to a more engaged and engaging Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Growing economically by leaps and bounds — many predict the land of the mystic Garuda will outpace China and India in 2013, barreling along at 6.3 percent this year. But the story of the Asian Century goes well beyond markets, per capitas, and growing middle classes.

Crucial to our story, Indonesia brings a seriously democratic (if not messy) government, fiercely independent (and wildly free) press, one of the world’s most diverse countries (in so many aspects), and a super-active civil society (masters of multi-platform activism). Malaysia may have staked a claim to “Truly Asia,” but Indonesia definitely gets the Oscar for animating the Asian Century.

With Indonesia’s colorful democracy leading, the Asian Century will tell the story of Southeast Asia breaking the bonds of socio-economic imperialism, ditching patronage and growing through enlightened governance.

Southeast Asia may look north for investment from China, and west for entrepreneurial inspiration from India, but it will look to its core, to Indonesia, to inspire it. Indonesia has led the way through a home-grown democratic experience, tried and failed and tried again approaches to audaciously blaze a new path. Transparency and accountability the mantra; cultural traditions of mutual cooperation, or gotong royong, the background.

Take note Myanmar. You’re facing many of the same challenges stared down and overcome by your southern neighbor: military dominance, poorly developed political traditions prior to an impressive transformation from authoritarianism, realizing an unlikely nation carved from colonial boundaries, frighteningly violent intergroup relations, and even excessively inward-looking religious fanatics.

Indonesia’s stunning achievements demonstrate that the Asian Century can move beyond the troika of woes: clans, cliques and clones.

Of clans: Inspired by direct elections, increasing Internet accessibility, Facebook fanaticism and the smart-phone revolution, Indonesians increasingly reject rule or advantage based upon clan allegiance. Family fiefdoms have lost their luster. We see more and more state agencies, at all levels, seeking the best and brightest of today’s generation to reform and build the institutions propelling the world’s fourth-most populous country onward to the heart of the Asian Century.

Of cliques: Indonesia has successfully shown that an Asian-grown democracy can eschew governance based on religious, social or political cliques. Governance is now about driving growth, inspiring youth and expanding social capital. Religious cliques — rejected. Business-party cliques — been there, done that. Military cliques — the way of the past, not the future. Where the reigns of policymaking remain in the hands of a few — call them religious super-elites, party elites, military school graduating classes or the old boy network — policymaking fails.

Cliques are fragile associations that wither and collapse under the weight of their own hubris and lack of innovation. Diversity — in the workplace, in the community and in the nation — proves crucial again and again to bolster economic and social capital.

Indonesia’s history of unity in diversity no longer remains the hollow rhetoric of a dictator’s cliquish regime. Overcoming socio-economic strife together, while at the same time building vibrant democratic institutions and unprecedented personal freedom, is today’s Indonesia. Indonesians have proven that diversity — of people and opinion — serves the nation the best.

Of Clones: Post-1997 Asian Financial Crisis, Indonesia opened the flood gates of foreign aid. But remade in the image of Western benefactors? No. Enlightened Indonesian officials smartly ensured adherence to the Paris Declaration (an Indonesian deputy interior minister handed me a highlighted copy) ensuring national ownership, south-south collaboration and equal partnership to a development agenda that benefits Indonesians. Period. Indonesians are not in the business of reshaping themselves in the image of any Western “advanced industrial” or democratic country. They’re building their own home and, you know, it looks pretty good.

While critics remain, enlightenment has prevailed. Indonesian democracy allows all civil society to flourish, and the messy politics of demonstrations and activist NGOs and clerics have all lent themselves to strengthening — not abandoning — the Indonesian dream of a democracy built upon the bedrock of ethno-religious and political diversity.

Political and civil leaders have eschewed any attempts by foreign powers to remake them in a foreign image; they have refused to be cloned, by whomever and for whatever reason. A powerful, home-grown example of how to benefit from globalization, maintain unique characteristics of a nation and its people, and build strong foundations that propel the country into the heart of the Asian Century.

Indonesians push beyond clans, cliques and clones, crucially developing their own independent system and path. A path that rejects conventionally held wisdom. A path that rejects the politics of cliques, rejects the primacy of clans and guards against foreign cloning — ensuring independence from all quarters, be they friendly governments, big business or international civil society.

Indonesia’s experience — for all its faults and bumpy potholes and the progress yet to be made — can and should become a beacon for Asean policymakers, business people and civil leaders to explore.

Indonesia is showing Asia how to cut its own path forward, and lead the triumphant charge of the Asian Century.

Michael L. Bak is creative and collaboration director at Strategic Asia, a consultancy promoting cooperation among Asian nations. A former longtime resident of Indonesia, he now lives in Bangkok and Hong Kong and can be contacted at michael.bak@strategic-asia.com.


Cek berita, artikel, dan konten yang lain di Google News

Jika Anda tertarik untuk membaca tulisan Akhyari Hananto lainnya, silakan klik tautan ini arsip artikel Akhyari Hananto.

Terima kasih telah membaca sampai di sini