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Nationalism: A Modern Asset

Second Prize, High School Category, Essay Contest 2016

December 27, 2016

Image created by Gabriella Nicole Veda

Gabriella Nicole Veda is a 16 year-old high school student at Dian Harapan School in Jakarta, Indonesia. Born and raised in Jakarta, she likes to indulge in the city's atmosphere and capturing beautiful moments. She spends her holidays exploring winter wonderlands as much as she can, and her favorite pastime is obsessing over the cinematic world.

ESSAY TOPIC: Is nationalism an asset or hindrance in today's globalized world?

We are currently living in the rapidly globalizing world of the 21st century. This means that the barriers of communication and cultural exchange are eliminated. Consequently, nationalism grows into a crucial asset to have and will always be essential, especially in this open world. As an example, take my home country, Indonesia. Indonesia has a variety of races, religions, dialects, and beliefs, yet we are one. Our national motto "Bhinneka Tunggal Ika" translates into "Unity in Diversity," which keeps us together. We should be proud of our heritage, not busying ourselves aping other countries. True pride comes from loving one's own, and that's what nationalism is about.

The globalization boom has surfaced many questions, and whether globalization has decreased the importance of nationalism is one of the most frequent. Both globalization and nationalism are important in our contemporary world, but who's to say which is diminishing which? Some people say that nationalism is struggling to survive against globalization, and it has become less important. In my opinion, the struggle nationalism is going through is what makes it even more important. As an illustration, in a passage of Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, he explained: "The real price of every thing, what every thing really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it." Therefore, the more struggle it takes for nationalism to survive amidst a globalized world, the more the value or "real price" it costs, and thus makes it more important—an asset in today's globalized world.

A recent survey from Yougov on people’s attitudes toward globalization emerged a result that 72 percent of Indonesians think that globalization is a "force for good." However, 78 percent of Indonesians agreed with the statement "My country should be able to meet all of its own needs without needing to rely on imports from other countries." As an attempt to satisfy the confusing people’s needs, Mr. Joko Widodo (also known as Jokowi), Indonesia's ongoing president, is working to find the balance between nationalism and globalization. Jokowi is welcoming foreign companies and leads Indonesia towards a more liberalized democracy. Conversely, Jokowi has espoused nationalistic policies by underlining the necessity of self-reliance and support. The way I see it, Jokowi is one of the best leaders I've ever known in my 16 years of life. Why? Because for me, the key to a nation’s success is the collaboration of a leader who listens to his/her people's aspirations, processes it well, takes bold yet careful actions, and of the people who aren't afraid to voice their ideas and opinions (in peaceful terms, of course), trust their leader, believe and have pride in who they are.

Globalization, like everything, has its pros and cons. In this case, I'll only go through one of each. The pro of globalization is the increase of opportunities. This includes growth, communication, and job opportunities. With partnerships formed between countries and organizations, jobs are created, people's access to daily needs (clean water, medicine, food, and etc.) becomes easier, stability and peace between countries are guaranteed, and new solutions are available through efficient processes made possible by working together. On the contrary, these opportunities result in competition, and although competition is generally good, it does not come without a downside. In a competition, someone has to lose. That's why some countries don't survive globalization. Maybe you might say that the countries who fail to keep up with globalization deserves it because the ones worth surviving usually do, but you will bite your tongue if it's your country who fails. This failure will slowly lead to devastation, particularly environmental, economical, and cultural devastation. To fix economical problems, we tend to take and take again from our environment until there’s nothing left. Regarding the cultural division, we tend to emulate the "winning" countries, usually the West, resulting in lack of the much needed nationalism that could have helped a lot during hard times.

In order to fight the disadvantages of globalization, we need to acquire knowledge of our culture and heritage because these are what made us who we are in the first place. One of the most significant culture of Indonesian people is teamwork (called gotong royong in Bahasa Indonesia). There used to be kerja bakti (voluntary work) to channel the spirit of gotong royong, where people of a certain district work together to clean and organize their district every month or every decided period of time. These people did voluntary work with pleasure because the spirit of unity is Indonesia's identity. Another notable habit of Indonesian people is the routine residents gathering in the town square (alun-alun) where they perform traditional dances, songs, and dramas (e.g. gamelan, kecak dance, lenong, ondel-ondel, and etc.). However, these actions are like a double-sided coin where on one side, they preserve our rich culture, but on the other side, sometimes these result as a dissension between tribes or ethnic groups. Some tribes or ethnic groups identify themselves more as a member of their own particular tribe or group than as one—Indonesia. My question is, how can we join a fight against the disadvantages of globalization (such as the bad effects of westernization) if we are not united ourselves?

The same thing with Indonesia's current Suku, Agama, Ras, dan Antargolongan (ethnicity, religion, race, and inter-group relations) or simply SARA issues where political interests overpower humanity. People use SARA as an instrument for imposing certain groups, commonly leading to violence. Whereas, in this globalized world, cultural diversity should be a benefit in order to overcome the obstacles of this ever-changing society. Imagine a single country with so much to offer; 1,340 ethnicities with different languages, dialects, culture, beliefs, and many more. Each and every single one of them is unique, yet they all remain in unity. This leads to Mr. Joko Widodo's mission for Indonesia to embrace our differences and go face to face with globalization, together as one great country, Indonesia. I couldn't agree more.

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