In commemorating the Sanctity Day of Pancasila, students may wonder whether the state’s foundational ideology remains relevant to day-to-day life in this country.
This public curiosity makes sense since it is no longer considered by many as a rallying ideology, either in theory or practice. Pancasila seems to have lagged students’ minds and hearts as the government takes a half-hearted approach to mainstream the state ideology. Many view it as being incapable of getting over this country’s diverse problems.
Failed ventures on Pancasila mainstreaming measures are inseparably linked to the government’s preference for a political over cultural approach. Judging from that perspective, I regard that literature and literary pieces could play a pivotal role in inculcating Pancasila values into the public mind and heart.
Reading literature encourages students to be more prudent. Every time readers read literary pieces, they can find moral and aesthetic aspects. Despite their distinct emphasis on the aspects, writers strive to balance their moral messages to cause no judgmental effect on the readers and control their aesthetic features so that their pieces will not be void of strong messages.
Efforts to convey moral messages of Pancasila, for instance, are applicable through the exposure of intrinsic elements of novels or short stories to readers. Understanding the plot — cause and effect-based series of events — persuades readers to be patient. Good readers attempt to catch the idea and narrative structure of a story through their understanding of the plot. They will never deduce while they are yet to arrive at the climax. Their perseverance in following the plot sequentially makes them not jump to conclusions and have a better inference instead.
Enjoying literary works is pretty much the same as going through life. One often suspects that a concubine is cursed following her ongoing extramarital sexual relationship with lots of men. Through Y.B. Mangunwijaya’s novel, Burung-Burung Manyar, published in 1981, one can learn that being a concubine is not so much about cohabiting with men to whom she is not married. Rather, it is to do with imperial
complexity and a matter of survival. It encourages students to be more reflective than judgmental.
The conflict taking place in Mangunwijaya’s novel forbids many from pointing the finger at female intricacy on the one side and pushes a sense of compromise among students on the other. This nation is always in dire need of compromise and accommodation, which basically enforces the fourth sila (principle) of Pancasila on democracy.
Examining Umar Kayam’s Para Priyayi (The Javanese Elite), students will become enlightened to how to put pluralism on a pedestal in an Indonesian context. In his work, Kayam writes about the aristocratic values that were not identical to feudalism. Aristocracy is described as a patron of humanity. A person can become a legitimate aristocrat if he or she has social awareness and not because of a feudalist system. This novel revolutionised students’ mindsets on the aristocracy.
Respecting pluralism brings students to the point where they esteem truth and relativism. For writers, literary pieces indicate voices of multiple truths inasmuch as they deem truth as a personal thing. A truth for Hamka, for example, is not necessarily compatible with what is considered truth for Y.B. Mangunwijaya. While the former believes that truth is buttressed by religious tenets, the latter ascribes it to the dictates of conscience. Plural religion and religiousness deal with justice, which are manifestations of the fifth sila of Pancasila.
Equally important is that literature is efficacious in prompting students to love history. Appreciating Pancasila means recognising the significance of history. Various events or incidents to change Pancasila as the state’s foundational ideology in the past should be now responded to by driving students to love the country’s history. This is particularly true as Pancasila is the product of history as well.
Teaching and reading literature are instrumental in making history more vivid, owing to the writers’ creativity and imagination. The two tools serve to energise the storyline which in turn results in more dramatic messages to the readers. Take Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk, written by Ahmad Tohari, as an example. While Soeharto’s New Order regime applied strict measures to political detainees alleged to be members of the now banned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk managed to raise students’ awareness about the suffering of ordinary civilians in the aftermath of Indonesia’s political turmoil in the 1960s.
The political approach taken by the government to the PKI members in its attempt to preserve Pancasila will only create historical revenge and hostility as it does away with humanitarian values. In contrast, through its fictional characters, Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk inspires students to have a more balanced view of those who were suspected of being PKI members. Principle messages of Pancasila fall free as justice is taken away even from those who aspire to deconstruct the state ideology like the PKI.
It stands to reason that a literary work is capable of rendering students more dynamic due to its cathartic effect on the readers. Those whose mind is reeling and whose heart is touched after reading novels, short stories, or poems are ready to change and accept a new truth rather than those who have been indoctrinated politically to defend Pancasila. Thus, it is no exaggeration to say that literature can contribute to setting the record straight or straightening out history, particularly to review the very meaning of Sanctity Day of Pancasila nowadays and any other celebration moments.