- Denisa Mayari
What It Means to be "Indonesian": Meet The Nusantara Bulletin
Note: Given that the word "nasionalisme" in Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia (KBBI) means "paham untuk mencintai bangsa dan negara sendiri," “Nationalism” in this article refers to the idea and action of loving one's country, in addition to Britannica’s definition of nationalism in Indonesia as “embracing the ethnic diversity of the archipelago.”
Prior to their eventual union, or the genesis of modern-day Indonesia, our ancestors were geographically and culturally distant and divided. Many years have passed since the multitude of islands and empires committed to forming one unified nation; Indonesia's diversity since then has only persisted, perhaps even grown. We all look different, speak different languages, and believe in different faiths—and those are just the surface-level aspects.
We believe that natural devotion and love are at the heart of nationalism, just as they are at the heart of all great movements and ideas. We also believe that being Indonesian extends far beyond just birthplace or ethnic identity; it’s about being a part of a vibrant community with our special local wisdom and cultural values. A genuine and enduring connection to the country and its culture is the true mark of a proud Indonesian.
Storytelling about Indonesia and its people should be fueled by passion and love if it is to do justice to the uniqueness of the people's distinct ways of life. Even the most mundane of habits may be traced back to centuries of tradition, and it is almost impossible for words to fully capture the depth of the significance behind them. However, through our writing, we strive to keep the country's rich cultural history alive. This is how we show our heartfelt appreciation for Indonesia.
There shouldn't be hard and fast rules on what one must be or not be to show they appreciate and want to share or enjoy Indonesian culture. Our country is so diverse that we believe it is only appropriate that its stories be recounted in as many unique ways as possible. Being Indonesian is a different experience for each and every Indonesian. For instance, Indonesians who did not grow up immersed in traditional culture but nevertheless have a strong desire to connect to it are just as Indonesian, if not more so, than most of us.
While we acknowledge that there are others who disagree, we stand firm in our belief that Indonesian identity is grounded in more than just bloodlines or upbringing. Pierre Tendean was half French and half Indonesian, while M.H. Thamrin was of Dutch descent. Haji Agus Salim was a well-known polyglot, and many of the people at the congress who came up with the Youth Pledge (Sumpah Pemuda) had barely spoken Indonesian at the time because the majority of them mainly spoke Dutch. Regardless, we still perceive them as heroes, role models, and exemplary Indonesians. Because the one thing they all share—a love for the country—is so much more important than the various ways in which they differ, their mark on Indonesia continues to be felt and cherished long after they have passed.
The Nusantara Bulletin was founded with the goal of spreading the message that love of country and cultural identity should not be governed by a set of rules. The way we see it, what makes an Indonesian is not proficiency in the language, a stereotypical face, or a comprehensive collection of facts or possessions. A passion for Indonesia's culture is all that's required to join the fight to keep it alive; you need not be a historian, statesperson, cultural practitioner, or academic. We urge you to express your passion for Indonesia in your own special way.