Indonesian People by Mochtar Lubis: Dayak Slightly Different in Character

Mochtar Lubis, a prominent journalist and writer from the Minang realm of Indonesia, vividly portrays the behavior and life of the Indonesian nation.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated May 23 as "World Book and Copyright Day" in 1995 as a way to honor authors, publishers, and book sellers. 

It's also intended to promote a love for reading, publishing, and copyright.

World Book and Copyright Day

This day was chosen to pay tribute to the birth date of the famous writer, Miguel de Cervantes, born on May 23, 1547, as well as the death date of another great writer, William Shakespeare, who also passed away on the same date in 1616. 

On this significant Literacy Day, it's interesting to revisit Mochtar Lubis's book, which discusses the fundamental characteristics of the Indonesian people. 

If the population of Borneo, predominantly Dayak, is considered part of the "Indonesian people," do all the traits of Indonesians in this book apply to them? 

As it turns out, no! The Dayak people have their own fundamental traits.

Understanding the fundamental character

Understanding the fundamental character of the people in a particular area is an important step for travelers or adventurers before visiting that place. Mochtar Lubis's controversial book indeed serves as a valuable source to delve into understanding the characteristics of Indonesian society. 

The controversial book is titled Manusia Indonesia (Indonesian People).

By studying this book, we can gain deeper insights into the culture, traditions, and behaviors that underlie social interactions in Indonesia. This can help us as travelers or adventurers to better appreciate and understand the local community, and to build better relationships during our journey.

"The saying goes, 'Even a cracked mirror reflects,' suggesting that mirrors, like us, may show imperfections. As knights and lifelong learners, perhaps our mirrors, reflecting our faces, should not be shattered. Instead, they need repair from a doctor or specific nutrients to restore our once flawed faces to their former glory.

Mochtar Lubis, a prominent journalist and writer from the Minang realm of Indonesia, vividly portrays the behavior and life of the Indonesian nation.

In a lecture he delivered on April 6, 1977, at Taman Ismail Marzuki, Lubis offered a profound reflection on the complexity of the Indonesian national identity. At that time, the country was still young, merely 32 years old, yet the ideas he presented had a significant impact.

In Mochtar Lubis's view, the term 'peri' carries meanings of goodness, excellence, civility, politeness, and nobility. However, in reality, the often-emerging image is quite the opposite - flaws, inadequacies, and neglect. This analogy demonstrates how society often displays the less favorable aspects of inherently good things. Like a car created in good condition at the factory, but when it breaks down, our attention is drawn to the problematic parts.

Mochtar Lubis elaborates that although the majority of Indonesian society possesses good qualities, it is necessary to focus on aspects that need improvement. He describes this condition as akin to a car that requires maintenance, where some parts may have already deteriorated. In this way, he stimulates deep reflection on aspects that need enhancement in national life.

The book written by Mochtar Lubis has become a highly influential work. Despite being delivered at a time when Indonesia was still young as a nation-state, this book remains relevant even decades later. Lubis's analytical intelligence in dissecting the basic characteristics of the Indonesian people is reflected in his important reference book. The insights in this book help to remove the mask of pretense and present a honest and sharp view of the national identity.

Here are the 12 fundamental traits of the Indonesian people according to Mochtar Lubis:

1. Hypocritical. Generally, Indonesians tend to be hypocritical. Saying one thing but meaning another.

2. Hesitant and unwilling to take responsibility for their actions, decisions, behaviors, thoughts, and so on. If we believe that nothing comes from nothing, perhaps the saying "Throw a stone and hide your hand" arises from the social reality of Indonesian society. It depicts someone who dares to act but fears responsibility.

3. Displaying feudal attitudes and behaviors. This is a legacy of feudalism and colonialism, a mentality passed down from generation to generation, primarily practiced in bureaucracy, whether governmental or private.

4. Superstitious. Despite the average level of education in Indonesia improving over time, when faced with problems and life difficulties, Indonesians tend to seek solace in mysticism. Belief in superstition and the mystical world is still deeply ingrained and has not completely faded from the subconscious of the Indonesian people. Yet, belief in superstition and the mystical world is a characteristic of primitive humans.

5. Artistic, with a talent for art. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Indonesian people's character is seen in the Balinese, Javanese, Dayak, and Papuan ethnicities. Artistic skills and the artistic spirit shine through in architecture and everyday life narratives. However, other ethnicities also possess this characteristic.

6. Weak in character. The character of a nation is not built in a day but over a long period, through internalization processes.

7. Not thrifty. Indonesians are spendthrifts; today's earnings are spent today. Generally, they are not fond of saving and thinking about the future.

8. Inclined to not work hard unless compelled. They live leisurely, with the principle: there is fortune on certain days, there is rice on certain days.

9. Complainers, not daring to express their thoughts and opinions in front of others. They stab in the back. Yes, in front, but not behind.

10. Quick to envy and be jealous. If someone else succeeds, they become envious and jealous. Easily prone to envy.

11. Pretentious, unwilling to acknowledge their shortcomings/limitations.

12. Easily imitative. This indicates that Indonesians are less creative and innovative. They easily imitate, yet do not acknowledge that it is someone else's invention.

This book serves as a foundation for anyone who wishes to understand the essence of the Indonesian identity and fundamental human traits. 

Mochtar Lubis's thoughts allow readers to contemplate, absorb, and respond to the challenges and potentials inherent in the national character, considering that this perspective still holds strong expressive power even in today's reality."

The main characteristics and traits of the Dayak people

The Dayak people, as described by David Jenkins in 1978, embody a unique blend of noble characteristics and a close connection with their natural surroundings. Renowned as "noble savages," the Dayak are revered for their honesty, a virtue deeply ingrained in their cultural fabric. This honesty permeates their interactions with others, fostering trust and mutual respect within their communities.

The appearance of modern-day Dayak people varies, as they encompass diverse ethnic groups living across the Indonesian region of Borneo (Kalimantan) and parts of Malaysia. 

Hospitality is a cornerstone of Dayak culture, with guests treated as honored visitors. Upon arrival, guests are warmly welcomed and provided with the finest food and accommodations available. This tradition reflects the Dayak's generous spirit and commitment to ensuring the comfort and well-being of others.

In addition to their hospitality, the Dayak are known for their aversion to conflict, preferring peace and harmony in their communities. They adhere to the principle of avoiding unnecessary disputes and maintaining amicable relations with their neighbors.

Dayak individuals exhibit a refreshing simplicity and sincerity in their demeanor, characterized by their straightforwardness and lack of pretense. This authenticity fosters genuine connections and fosters a sense of camaraderie among community members.

Furthermore, loyalty is highly valued among the Dayak, with strong bonds of allegiance formed within families and social circles. This loyalty extends to their work ethic, as Dayak people are renowned for their diligence and perseverance in their endeavors, whether it be in agriculture, craftsmanship, or other pursuits.

Finally, the Dayak are known for their warm and welcoming nature, readily embracing visitors and fostering a sense of belonging for all who enter their communities. This spirit of hospitality and inclusivity reflects the essence of Dayak culture and contributes to the richness of their societal tapestry.

- Rangkaya Bada

Next Post Previous Post
No Comment
Add Comment
comment url