The Depolitics

Hernawan Bagaskoro Abid

We're heading to the (Indonesia) Independence Day [1],or I shall write independence day (with no capital alphabets on it), a term that has been biased, intrigued and vague in our country over the decades. The debate about this arose and sunk, appeared and gone, yelled and whispered in the public sphere for quite long time. Have we really reached independence?Have we really enjoyed the freedom? Now those questions are sounded to be cynical and sarcastic than the interrogative one. Some said we've already obtained our independence since August 17th 1945. Some others persisted that we never really had such condition in real life. This is very political (not politics) [2] to argue whether or not we obtain the independence. So let it be adjourned here, leave that debate in 'status quo': unclear. I'd rather propose a new talk: the politics.
I always remember Surabaya, a big city at East Java province when it comes to politics (and independence). Surabaya was a historical battlefield in the pre-proclamation[3] movement between Indonesia forces (armies and civilians) and Allies forces(Dutch, supported by British). There in Surabaya, Indonesia showed the world amassive resistance against any kind of occupation. Soetomo (October 3, 1920 -October 7, 1981) was a local citizen who was broadly known for his remarkable resistance against Allies. He was very popular among the Surabayan but notorious infront of the Allies, notably when he 'provoked' the mass to extend the fight in November 1945. At that time, untungnya, politics was not commonly accepted as an individual interest. Or I may say: no one really cared about politics in a bad sense. For me, Bung Tomo was not only a local hero, he was also a politician. A politician when the term 'politics' was not like what we're subscribed as 'politics' today. At November 9th,he made a memorable speech in radio, ignited local spirit to fight against NICA [4] and Allies;
"Hey Britain, as long as the wild ox, the youth of Indonesia, still havered blood that can make a white cloth red and white... as long as that we willnot surrender. Friends, fellow fighters... especially the youth of Indonesia,we will fight on, we will expel the colonialists from our Indonesian land thatwe love... Long have we suffered, been exploited, trampled on. Now is the timefor us to seize our independence. Our slogan: FREEDOM OR DEATH. GOD ISGREAT... GOD IS GREAT... GOD IS GREAT... FREEDOM!"

It was politics and still, it is politics that becomes a part of people's consideration to make a decision, to move their feet. Oleh karena itu, I wonder if Bung Tomo could get the same attention if he announced his words today. Perhaps, he would be insulted and ignored by the mass, "Who the hell are you?", "Why'd you think we would follow your order....?","F- Megalomaniac!" It is important to draw that the politics is not how it used to be in our country. Politics has no longer a prospect to be achieved, but a problem to be solved. It has been, somehow, declined from a noble creation into a worst expectation. Pathetic!
Bung Tomo was not the only one. Cut Nyak Dien, Diponegoro, Pattimura, Hassanuddin and the likes are other examples of heroism. In a certain levelt, you may add Soekarno, M. Hatta, Ki Hajar Dewantoro, and if you like it; Tan Malaka. There were powers from the top level until the very bottomof Indonesia movement, ranging from the armed forces to the diplomatic tables, rooting from the very liberal thoughts to the very fundamental religious cores. A power of politics that works like atoms in our universe, fits what had elaborated byFoucault as omnipresent.[5]
I'm not saying that it was politics which became a goal of our local heroism in the past. However, if we want to be scrupulous on identifying how the movement was done, we would recognize some essential things and characteristics that shared among politics and its movement. It was about who gets what, when and how [6] –extremely classic--. Indonesians would attain freedom as soon as the Dutch 'disappeared' from the motherland by any means. Politics is how a person convinces others todo something for a purposive interest. Nevertheless, though the essence of politics remained the same from the past politics until today's politics bu tthe perception from people is quite different. Let us bury Machiavelli, Marx o r Nietszche deep inside the bunker for a moment. Leave those who once proposed 'suspicious politics', leery thoughts,and skeptical ideas on the academic discussion only. Let us identify what are our problems on seeing politics in contemporary Indonesia: mistrust, skepticism, disbelief.And if you are a postmodernist, you would say: incredulity[7].
Yah, we have noted that this kind of the declining value of politics started right after the proclamation and reached its peak on the 1955's election, when Indonesia entered what so called as "liberal democracy era". Though, some said (for instance Lay 1997, Muzani 2004) that the era was so great and memorable in a good sense, an era where democracy was not limited by legal power. In some part it was true, but it was not without consequences and excesses. Unfortunately,the consequence is somewhat "critical" for Indonesia. From that moment on, our society is likely to be in a serious fragmentation. Herbert Feith captured the phenomena in 1955's election and documented it into a very monumental work entitled "The Decline of Constitutional Democracy in Indonesia" (1962) [8].Feith lalu, classified our society's political preference, which was –unsurprisingly-corresponded Clifford Geertz's three cultural mainstreams classification inJava [9] .Administration inaugurated and dismissed one after another, from Ali Sastroamidjojo, Burhanuddin Harahap, Natsir to Sukirman. There were no parties had a significant power in kostituante [10], and so, when the deal had gone, the commitment was betrayed. This era ended when Soekarno unilaterally launched Dekrit Presiden 1959 to terminate the parliament.
Our politics today challenged by the incredulity of our society towards their leaders, from thevery bottom of authority up to the very top of administration. From balai desa to istana. This kind of mistrust has actually embedded with a plausible reason that, until now, our administration seemed not to work as itis expected to be. This is partly true, but most media today deteriorates the issue. In some cases and phenomenon, our media has made our society sank in the ocean of incredulity deeper and deeper. Cicak vs Buaya case, Centurygate, Susno Duadji case, Gayus case up to Abu Bakar Ba'asyir case are good examples on indicating the role ofmedia to worsen people's perception towards their government and to twist people's mind of right and wrong. Everything seems to be political in our society today. This is why I argue that even Bung Tomo himself won't be listened if he pronounced his igniting speech today. Instead of promoting our leaders to be good in their politics, which has been overdid by the critics, I hereby promote our politicians and societies to apply the reverse one: depolitics.
Today, our society lacks of trust. It's true that we have to be aware and responsive to what happened in the public area, but lacking trust is slightly different. For me, it is very redundant. As I have explained above that our past local heroism on combating occupation relayed strongly on trust. A trust to see politics in a proper way, both good and evil. Though we know that there will be no guarantee that our trust leads to victory but I believe that trust ,in some extent, is a freedom itself. Depolitics is a concept of thought on extricating people from all kind of suspicious prejudices. In order to encounter the mainstream mass incredulity I have explained before, this term should also besharpened. It should be leaned into one side, the good side. Depolitics is husnudzon rather than su'udzon. In the context of politics, we can utilize depolitics to filter which one is problem, which one is not, and when should we support, when should we oppose.
Indonesia contemporary politics does need this kind of depolitics. Opposition needs to differ which one is prospect which one is problem. We may agree that Yudhoyono's administration can't satisfy us, but we should also consider that no one cansatisfy everyone. Our politicians need to focus on the real problem than elaborate what might be a 'murderous issue' for their opponents. Depolitics is what our country lacking. Barack Obama once practicing this kind of depolitics on 2008, during his presidential campaign against John Mc. Cain. A journalist asked him about an issue in a short interview. The issue was very 'assassinating' for Sarah Palin, who was Mc. Cain's candidate for vice president. Rumour has it that Palin's 17th years old daughter was 'accidentally' pregnant.The journalists expected that Obama would make this as a weapon to attack Palin's moral value as an individual and Mc. Cain's campaign as an US 1 candidate. They knew that if Obama attacked Palin for the issue it would be abig news for them. Surprisingly, Obama told the journalists: "My mother was still 18th yearsold when she gave birth of me, so what's the matter with that ?". Soon after the interview, Obama asked the media not to make it sounded to be political. Ah, depolitics !
I come in a conclusion that freedom and independence are incessant process, not a single-determinated goal. You have received independence, not only when you are free to criticize and oppose everyone, but also when you 'dare' to give trust to someone; you friends, your fellows, your leaders, even your rivals. Independence as a process substantively attained by individuals, for those who do the process, not by country as a legal power wielder. When individuals are independent, they are expected to accelerate the independence of the society. And society might trigger the process of independence to their country, bottom-up. Depolitics, bagaimanapun juga, is merely a choice. It is not a clear solution,but an alternative possibility. The last of my writings is Gandhi's, who once said: "Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes." You may make mistakes when you trustsomebody, take the consequences and be free!

[1]Be not mistaken that the term Independence Day in English is often referred tothe 4th July (US Independence Day) in all over the world. Thereby, I add "(Indonesia)" in front of the term to clarify the term itself.
[2] Further explanation can be found on Chantal Mouffe's "On the Political". In that work, she briefly described what differed 'political' from 'politics'.
[3]Pre-proclamation is a relatively 'safe' term, it fits better than "pre-independence"in the linked context.
[4]Netherlands Indies Civil Administration.
[5]Michel Foucault, a modern French philosopher and historian. Remarkable for his study about the relation of power. One of Foucault's famous quotations is "power is omnipresent", proposed that power is not only gained by a class of people or government, but also by everyone in the society.
[6]Laswell, Harold Dwight. Politics: WhoGets What, When, How. 1935. University of Chicago Press.
[7]The term incredulity was firstly amplified by Jean-Francois Lyotard on 1984. Read his The Postmodern Condition:A Report on Knowledge for details.
[8]Feith, Herbert. The Decline of Constitutional Democracy in Indonesia. 1962. CornellUniversity Press.
[9] Santri, Abangan and Priyayi, readfurther Geertz's work Religion in Java.
[10]Top four result on 1955's election: Partai Nasional Indonesia (23%), Masyumi(20 %), Nahdlatul Ulama (18%) and Partai Komunis Indonesia (16%).