Youth is the agent of change. Everyone may agree with this statement. Youths are the intellectuals honest enough to speak out about the problems that exist today. They are never afraid of the corrupt regime.
In the hands of the youths, every revolution in Indonesia has been accomplished. No matter how difficult the revolution, no matter how many victims, the youths are always in the front row, declaring what is right and what is wrong.
Everybody believes youths are their loudspeakers. When the top leaders forget what the ordinary people need, the youths speak up for the people. Youths are the catalyst of revolution in Indonesia. But now, where are they? People need them to fight the new global colonialism which threatens to take away Indonesia’s wealth.
The history of youth movements began with the actions of nationalist youths in 1908 who sought to unify what was to become Indonesia. They believed that without national unity independence would be just a dream.
The youths based their ideas on the experiences of past independence wars in various parts of the world, and thus they were not strong enough to defeat colonial rulers.
Based on this experience, they constructed an organization based on nationalism that they called Boedi Oetomo. The Boedi Oetomo group was an open organization for every ethnic group in Indonesia. They cooperated with the colonial government, but, they also promoted nationalism among youth members.
Budi Oetomo believed unity could only grow with solidarity, education and wealth. So they launched programs that informed uneducated people, published nationalist magazines and gave aid to the those who needed it.
The spirit of Boedi Outomo was manifested on Oct. 28, 1928. At that time, youths from different regions proclaimed themselves as one nation. They buried the differences among them. “If there is no unity, there is no independence,” that’s what they believed.
That’s why they were proclaiming themselves as one nation, one motherland and one language, Indonesia.
The youth movement at that time grew into a great movement. The colonial government was afraid of the movement and sought to repress them. In this they failed because the youth movement never forgot its mission; speaking for the needs of the ordinary people. Their movement came to a head when Indonesia declared independence on Aug. 17, 1945.
The youth movement of the past continued to inspire the youth generation of the post independence era. In 1966, when this country collapsed and some people wanted to change our ideology away from Pancasila, the youths came and saved this country.
In later years, they fought the authoritarian regime. While some of them were lost, the youth movement could accomplish their mission to save this country. From 1997-1998, the youth movement also moved to bring down the authoritarian regime. That regime was corrupt and cruel to the people. They were successful in bringing down the regime although that regime used their militaristic muscles to end the youth movement.
But now, where are they? The youth movement has not showed up as their predecessors did. Based on my observations, hopefully wrong, the youth movement is trapped in three problems; practical politics, hedonism and desire for money.
This is based on my observations of some youth movements on a famous campus in my hometown of Malang in East Java. Some youth movements have focused on politics. They just fight against each other to get seats on the students’ organization. They want the power at campus to get scholarships from the school. Their ultimate goal is wealth, not voicing the needs of the ordinary people.
Because they bring themselves to focus on politics, they become hedonistic. Some youth movements at that campus hold events just for fun. They forget the educational and nationalism that such events should entail. That’s why they do not make any progress like their seniors in the past.
This hedonistic culture is the result of a money-oriented belief. It is not a secret that some youth movements at a famous campus in my hometown are not independent in the way they raise money – rather the money is donated by people outside of those youth movements.
The problem comes when their patrons also control the youth movement. The patrons use the power of money to run their hidden agenda. That’s why the youth movement is not independent as it once was. Bung Karno, the founding president once said, “Give me 10 nationalist youths, I will shake the world”.
However, not all youth movements focus on politics, hedonism and money. Some youth movements still fight for the country. They fight in different ways, not always visibly. For example, some volunteer in disaster relief efforts, some teach poor students, or take part in other charitable activities. In a way, they have tried to maintain what Boedi Oetomo preached many years ago unity.
Ferril Irham Muzaki
State University of Malang