Does History Matter to Indonesia?
[Jakarta, LTTW] “Never forget history.” That was what Soekarno, the First President of Indonesia, used to say. Yet recently—in the first month of the 2018—two historical buildings in Jakarta, Indonesia have been damaged.
The day after Jakarta Stock Exchange’s hallway collapsed, Jakarta Maritime Museum was scorched on January 16—leaving half of the building heavily damaged and many of its collections unsalvageable, including the priceless ones. It is such an irony that a maritime museum could be engulfed by flames, when the word “maritime” itself means ‘relating to the sea’. The building once stood as VOC’s spices storage too, which added more historical significance to it. Unfortunately, there are only three maritime museums in Indonesia—including the damaged one—which is a very small number for an archipelago country. Contradictory to what Soekarno used to say, it is hard to justify the significance of history among Indonesian.
One thing that needs to be well-pondered is that maritime is the original culture of Indonesia that needs to be revived. However, the question remains: could Indonesia revive the culture while a large number of us are still ignorant of our own history?
Long before this incident happened, maritime culture has long been abandoned—imposed by monoculture during colonialism. This unfavorable situation has blurred our memories, as if the story of Majapahit Kingdom uniting the archipelago with its warships was just another bedtime story. Courage, hunger for exploration, willingness to take risks, and solidarity are maritime values that are very rare to be found among Indonesians today. The role of fishermen these days is only seen as a profession to lift economic welfare; nothing more, nothing less. This narrowed role is even enforced by the government’s campaign. The culture, together with its history and values, is just kept in museums as “memories” rather than living inside the people.
When Soekarno told us not to forget history, does it really mean simply to remember? In Listen to the World’s opinion, “not forgetting” means to learn from it. History is what gives us today, so it’s essential to see history as a source of knowledge. Thanks to history, we could learn from our mistakes so we would not repeat making the same ones. By comprehending our roots, we would uphold the contained values and keep our identity intact. Those are essential if we want to revive and improve the culture within the nation towards a better future.