Tag: nationalism

Recalling my Trip to Indonesia

It was last year that me and my friends decided to go to Indonesia as a destination for our graduation trip. We mainly visited Bali island and Central Java that have a lot of fascinating culture, extensive history and cultural properties.


Although the majority of people belong to muslim in Indonesia, they do not establish Islam as the national religion. Namely Indonesian have religious liberty. As prof. van der Meer Indicated us the religions in Indonesia with a map, the religions are varied depends on the regions in Indonesia. Despite Indonesia having a Muslim majority, Bali remains one of the islands in Indonesia that boast a Hindu majority. Likewise protestantism, catholicism, and buddhism are spread throughout in Indonesia. Though I did not know such a religious diversity in Indonesia at that time, I somehow figured out that Bali and Java have different religions because each places looked very different. For instance, as soon as I arrived at the airport in Bali, I found woven baskets filled with colorful flowers or rice on the floor. I thought it was just traditional decoration at that moment but I found many of them as well while I was walking in the city. It turned out that they are small offering baskets called “canang sari” which Balinese offer to their HIndu Gods. Also I felt Bali is one of the most liberal places in Indonesia, where people can drink alcohol and eat pork, unlike in other places in Indonesia.


In the suburbs of the city Yogyakarta in the island of Java, I saw many religions lived together as Prof. van der Meer mentioned in the lecture; cathedral, church, Chinese temple, Buddhist temple and Hindu temple. I actually visited Prambanan temple and Borobudur temple during my trip in Indonesia. Prambanan is a 9th century Hindu temple and Borobudur is the largest buddhist temple which is also compounded around 9th century. Borobudur is registered as one of the World Heritage and I was really amazed to see the decoration with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. Moreover it made me surprise to see those two different religious temples were co-existing within 40km since a long time ago. This is impressive and it also tells us the importance to respect each religions and live together harmoniously as Indonesia has proved.


Related to Indonesian culture and history, I remembered the lecture I took back in my college. The professor in the lecture presented us the history textbook which Indonesian high school students use. The professor explained us that the history textbook stresses on the strength of Indonesian people’s patriotic spirit which never succumb to threats of colonization.The textbook aims to foster national identity through the history education and I think this emphasis influenced by the nationalist movement under long colonization. It was interesting to see the difference in educational textbooks because I have never seen those descriptions in Japanese history textbook, where only facts happened in past are chronologically described. Despite historically Indonesia had been struggling of interference by several countries, I believe there were still something other countries could not change them, which was their own core values and cultural identities.

American Origin of Nationalism: An etymological approach.

This past week, Professor Arnout Van Demeer, come to discuss the origins of nationalism in Southeast Asia. While I could summarize the tale of Soemarsono igniting change and deconstruct the analogy of the oil lamp, I feel more compelled to search for our origins of nationalism. Now, to be clear, “our” refers to the American origins of nationalism, and that in itself contains a number of complications. So I care to ask, just as I have scrawled in my notes: can we be nationalistic despite not being a native. Yet, though not a native American (note how I’m not capitalizing native), I am still an American national. This of course, opens a further can of worms, stemming from questions of national identity. Thus, I’ll start at the root: ‘nat’.

‘Nat’, as in nation, nationalism, and native directly means ‘to be born’ or ‘to spring forth’. Yet, the majority of our country has familial roots spanning multiple nations, thus ‘international’ and ‘internationalism’ seem a better. Therefore I question that, unless you are indeed a native American, wouldn’t it be better to refer to your nationalism as internationalism. With such a minute percentage of native Americans, isn’t then nationalism re-branded internationalism under the guise of a unifying umbrella nation? Perhaps the suffix clarifies this ambiguous derivation…

The suffix ‘al’ is simple, meaning “of a kind or pertaining to”; therefore ‘national’ means ‘concerned with or pertaining to a nation’.1(<<apparently I cannot superscript) Does that not therefore deem my previous assessment of nationalism invalid? The final suffix, ‘ism’, is merely means “the distinctive doctrine or theory of”. Therefore, nationalism is the doctrine pertaining to a nation, and I care to argue that my previous logic is actually backwards. Instead of nationalism being exclusive to those tied to the nation from birth, perhaps nationalism, in a way, ties those who share the unifying ideals of a nation regardless of birthplace as ‘nat’ suggests. Of course, this is only an etymological view of nationalism, but it seems to suggest that anyone — immigrant, national, or otherwise — is as much as an American as those born in America*.2

Now where does this fit in with the larger theme of origins? I’m not sure if it does…yet

With such a large uprising in nationalism” surrounding the recent elections, it’s hard not to notice the hypocritical rhetoric that helped our president into Washington. Threats of deportation and slogans of “make America great again” don’t exactly mix with the idea that Americans are any people who agree with core “American values” (and yes I do put this in quotations because, I believe, ideals of equality and freedom aren’t exclusively American). However, I do believe that we, as Americans, in the upcoming years must bring this issue of inclusive nationalism to light, and find order in our self-referential chaos.

* The fine print here being: as long as they share the ideals of the nation as a whole.

  1. Sidenote: Notice how ‘foreign national’ is one who does not belong to the nation where they preside. Yet, when taking the root ‘nat’ literally, every immigrant, citizen or not, is a foreign national.
  2. Revisiting the preceding footnote: With the understanding of national and nationalism I have just derived and ignoring legal classifications, a ‘foreign national’,  is not so different from ‘immigrant’. More reading here: https://medium.com/reportedly/the-language-we-use-foreign-vs-immigrant-4e70f955f56b