But in his time, when post-war nationalism was at its heydays, when as a young nation the problem of identity was very much troubling, his idea of progress as by looking up western standard was anything but hard to accept by many who argued for something called particular Indonesian values and way of living. For them, defining our own identity was seen as more critical than any attempt for inclusiveness toward universal values (even if by that myths needs to be invented --and then taught to school children in my generation as Indonesian history.)
This is the paradox, however. The idea of Indonesia as a nation was born from people who were inspired by the very European ideals, that is, the young intellectuals in the early 20th century. Pramoedya Ananta Toer's This Earth of Mankind describes beautifully the tension, amazement, and restlessness that arose from the meeting between old values and the new (European) values as seen from narrative of its protagonist Minke.
Fast forward to 2008, the tension remains. But this time thing is more complicated because the idea of "western" is now becoming more and more difficult to comprehend. In philosophy, various writings under the rubric of postmodernism deconstruct the notion of western modernism. In practice, these days, the virtue of western civilization can not be easily observed by watching MTV or seeking explanation why democracy can
We live in the situation of neither horizon nor ready answers of all queries. By that, one may look inward, mutter "I told you so" while arguing the supremacy of being Indonesia --whatever it may mean. But I think Soedjatmoko, another Indonesian great thinker made a point as early as 1967
"The jump from the a-historical Weltanschauung of traditional agrarian society, with its chiliastic yearnings for the perfect society, to the closed and self-contained system of thought and the vision of the perfect state of Marxism is apparently a smaller one than the jump to the concept of an open future and the acceptance of the Imperfect State as part of the human condition. It is much more difficult to feel attracted to the insecurity of freedom than to the historical inevitability of a perfect world order from which comfort and strength can be drawn" (Australian Outlook, December 1967:288-89)"Ladies and gentlemen, as you may be familiar with the old saying "there is no such thing as a free lunch", please welcome the price tag of freedom: the insecurity. Rock on.
--Hanna Papanek and Goenawan Mohamad, Obituary: Soedjatmoko (1922-1989). Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 49, No. 2. (May, 1990), pp. 449-451