Indonesian #01: Remembering Those Who’re Gone

Such a great lost. Within a week, two different important intelectuals for Indonesian illiteracy were gone.

They both were passed away with different causes. The first one, was Wijaya Herlambang. PhD holder from Queensland University Australia. A former student-press activist during his bachelor time in Diponegoro University. His book Cultural Violence: It’s Practice and Challenge in Indonesia” published in 2011, later translated into Bahasa Indonesia as Kekerasan Budaya Paska 1965: Bagaimana Orde Baru Melegitimasi Anti-komunisme Melalui Sastra dan Film (Cultural Violence Post-1965: How the New Order Legitimized Anti-communism through Literature and Film). But according to Herlambang himself, the new version of the book was more than just a translation since it differences from the previous English version. Herlambang equipped his Indonesia-version of Cultural Violence with the addition of new data and details before it was published by Marjin Kiri.

Cultural Violence turned to be a new earthquake when it was launched.

10399197_20811755686_6604_nHerlambang who was born in Semarang, Central Java, May 30, 1972, through his (then) thesis exposed the evil strategy of Soeharto regime to wiped out Marxism from Indonesia with active support of writers, artists and film-makers. It gained great success as proven by anti-communism vibrat within Indonesian society even after Soeharto was toppled by 1998 social movement (please be note that it was not “1998 student movement”, stop saying that stupid thing). The likes of Goenawan Mohamad, Mochtar Lubis, PK Ojong, HB Jassin and Arief Budiman -with financial support from Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF)- were playing important role on promoting anti-communism tendency and as well as capitalism in the same time. CCF leader, Frank Wisner was a CIA agent. He helped to set up Obor Incorporated headed by Ivan Kats, a closed friend of Goenawan Mohamad.

The Indonesian names that I mentioned above, also associated with Manifesto Kebudayaan (Cultural Manifesto) group. A bunch of anti-communist intelectuals who later earned economy and political benefits following the destruction of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI: Partai Komunis Indonesia) and it mass organizations. Herlambang’s Cultural Violence later extended by Martin Suryajaya, my fellow editor in IndoPROGRESS through his critic towards Goenawan Mohamad, who later responded to it. Mohamad’s article -or well known for his name’s abbreviation GM, explained the origin of the formation of CCF and openly rejecting Suryajaya and Herlambang’s argument regarding his role within anti-communism massive campaign which was supported by CIA. GM promised that he will continue to write and explain more about it. Till now, it seems like a Godot’s waiting. Nothing happened.

In his interview with Left Book Review (LBR) of IndoPROGRESS, Herlambang openly criticizes Goenawan Mohamad, Mochtar Lubis, Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana Nugroho Susanto and other (so-called) liberal intelectuals and academics who were trying to hide their role during the New Order regime in power. Herlambang also mentioned that cultural institutions such as Salihara and Freedom Institute simply just another useless agencies who did nothing but promoting liberalism in term of capitalism. His disagreement of course shall not be deattached from the fact that those key figures behind these institutions are those who actively promoting cultural violence within Indonesian society since the 1965 massacre, supporting Soeharto’s anti-communism propaganda and zipped their mouth off towards mass killings that wiped out more than 500.000 people and jailed another million who were associated with PKI.

Herlambang, later activerly campaigning about it. From one seminar to another public discussion, he openly expressed his idea and promoting tribunal for those who were found guilty. Though he was sick, Herlambang attended the International People Tribunal 1965, held in Den Haag, Netherland. Couple months before, he was diagnosed with cancer and shall be at the hospital frequently for medical check up and chemotherapy. But Herlambang was a strong and dedicated kind of person. He ignored and postponed then rescheduled his medical session before flew to Den Haag for giving testimony as expert regarding massacre which was conducted by army and it supporters.

He passed away, Friday, December 4. Herlambang was struggling with lymph cancer since Februari 2015. Metal musician has gone and left unfinished business to other to carry on.

12363161_10153469700413533_7445052442689883202_oWhile Benedict (Ben) Anderson, was an internationalist who fell in love with Indonesia since his time as PhD student back in Cornell University, United States of America (USA). Born in Kunming, China, in August 26, 1936, and was raised there for couple years before his family moved to USA. Anderson’s father was Irish mixed with British blood from mother. He went to Cambridge University and earned his bachelor degree over there.

Along with Ruth McVey, Anderson co-write “A Preliminary Analysis of the October 1, 1965, Coup in Indonesia” known as Cornell Paper. A work detailing the political situation in Indonesia for which he was banned from the country during the Soeharto military regime.

He published number of works about Indonesia but was well known for his “Imagined Communities: Reflection on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism” which published in 1983. On this book, Anderson proposed a theoritical concept of the emergence of nationalism and the creating of so-called nation based on “imagined communities” are causes by the reduction of privileged access to particular script languages (Latin for instance), the movement to abolish the ideas of monarchy and divine rule, as well as the emergence of the “print capitalism” -a printing press system under capitalism.

Anderson’s view of nationalism places the roots of the notion of ‘nation’ at the end of the 18th century. He considers nation state building as imitative action, in which new political entities were “pirating” the model of the nation state. He observed the large cluster of political entities that sprang up in North America and South America between 1778 and 1838, almost all of which self-consciously defined themselves as nations, were historically the first such states to emerge and therefore inevitably provided the first real model of what such states should look like. Anderson holds that nationalism, as an instrument of nation-state building, began in the Americas and France. He characterized this first wave nationalism as “civic nationalist” differentiating it from the “ethnic nationalism” of the second wave.

The concept of “imagined communities” has inspired Thongchai Winichakul to write his “Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation”. Thongchai’s “geo-body” based on assumption that that notions of national identity are discursively constructed and therefore are subject to change. Modern Thailand is viewed as its territory and related values and practices, which brought Anderson’s “imagined communities” into a new level. Anderson himself openly acknowledged Thongchai’s work and used it as feed-back for his “Imagined Communities” new revised edition published by Verso in 1991.

Anderson wrote that:

“In the original edition of Imagined Communities I wrote that “so often in the nation-building policies of the new states one sees both a genuine, popular nationalist enthusiasm, and a systematic, even Machiavellian, instilling of nationalist ideology through the mass media, the educational system, administrative regulations, and so forth”. My short-sighted assumption then was that official nationalism in the colonized worlds of Asia and Africa was modelled directly on that of the dynastic states of nineteenth-century Europe. Subsequent reflection has persuaded me that this view was hasty and superficial, and that the immediate genealogy should be traced to the imaginings of the colonial state” –Census, Map, Museum, Ben Anderson.

Later in 2006, Anderson came up with new revised edition of “Imagined Communities” showed that it was unfinished business for him.

Aside that, Anderson also wrote number of books about Indonesia. For instance, “Some Aspects of Indonesian Politics under the Japanese Occupation: 1944–1945” published in 1961, “Mythology and the Tolerance of the Javanese” published in 1965, “Java in a Time of Revolution; Occupation and Resistance, 1944–1946” published in 1972, “Religion and Social Ethos in Indonesia” published in 1977, “Interpreting Indonesian Politics: Thirteen Contributions to the Debate” published in 1982, “Language and Power: Exploring Political Cultures in Indonesia” published in 1990, his latest piece “Violence and the State in Suharto’s Indonesia” published in 2001 and many more.

Such a great sign of love.

* * *

I met these two before. Couple times with Herlambang -four of five times, and two times with Anderson.

My first time met with Herlambang was during his book launching in Jakarta, July this year. I was there listening to his arguments but did not buy his book. It took me two months before finally I got his book. Read it in silent and talk nothing about it despited the fact that I was really surprised with his analysis. A great research, well written and the book itself was well design.

Before Herlambang passed away, he left a comment on one of my latest piece in IndoPROGRESS regarding antI-APEC rally in Manila, last month. I sent him message through Facebook and asking him when he will be in Jakarta and somehow have free time to talk. I wanted him to read something and of course give me comments on it.

It has no reply. I thought, he might be busy.

But in the evening, Fildzah Izzati, another IndoPROGRESS’ editor sent a message to our WhatsApp group that Herlambang just passed away. For few seconds I was shocked. But then my memory turned back to our last meeting where I told him that he shall be fine and will soon recovered. I said that he was not rich, so it sounds more than enough as the main reason for him to get well soon because that cancer only consumed his money and energy. He was laughing. I asked him to sign my Cultural Violence.

“I will sell it later when you passed away. It will be expensive and I am gonna rich.”

He just laughed as usual. But clearly I saw that he was struggling with his health.

With Anderson, I met him first in Bangkok during one of his lecture at Chulalongkorn University in 2013. As we know that Anderson also spent his ‘exile’ time from Indonesia to study more about Thailand and the Philippines. He was there to shared his thoughts regarding Thailand, nationalism and upcoming ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). His wide view on this region and critics towards political elites, gained no warm respons from the audience. Feudalism within the academic atmosphere in Chulalongkorn -often called as Yellow Campus regarding their closed relations with Royal Family, somehow turned the public lecture into a single speech only.

When I figured out that Anderson will stop by at the University of Indonesia to delivered his thoughts regarding his new Indonesia’s book, I knew it will be a good opportunity. His speech at University of Indonesia was my second and last meeting. I bought his Indonesian version of “Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-colonialism Imagination”. Despited the fact that I got the same book written in English. But my goal was different.

I need to get his signature and of course accompanied with the same joke. Though it was not on my plan. I just simply wanted it.

I proposed to get a time to interview Anderson for IndoPROGRESS. An offer that he rejected because has no time and he need to meet with old friends and enjoy his dinner quietly and informally. He promised that I will get that chance later before he left Jakarta. He will ask someone to let me know about it and help us to rearranged our schedule for interview.

But it was never happened. An announcement in the early morning from Marjin Kiri, was shocked me. Anderson passed away peacefully during his sleep after went out for visiting several ancient temples near Batu, Malang, East Java.

* * *

Both Herlambang and Anderson, left something for the younger generation to carry on. That’s maybe will be the best way to remember and to honor their lives, their dedication and their hard works.

When Herlambang’s death was emerged into the public sphere, soon after many people were posted his book and writing such a melancholia note. The same thing also happened to Anderson’s death today. Nothing’s wrong with that. It will only goes wrong when we decided to stop there.

Stuck on tasteless messages on how they were so inspiring and their works so amazing. Stuck on meaningless mourning towards people who died on struggle and smile. Stuck on hopeless words that we just lost two of the best intelectuals who were digging answers and brought it up to the surface of our ignorance. Stuck on misery and do nothing.

We shall move forward. We need to ensure that their legacy will not end here, in the hands of our generation that only playing Facebook, Twitter and drinking expensive coffee but forget to read, to discuss, to raise a question, to write, to read more, to discuss more, to raise more questions and to write more. I think, it will be a good and better way to remember those who’re gone too soon, too young and too fast when we were not ready. Their works need to criticized rather than celebrating it and lost it meanings.

Or we can stop remembering them.