My note

17 06 2009

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Dialogue: The “Word War” Era (Against Diversity)

A personal note on a seminar of

“Access and opportunity: Is there a new wind blowing in multicultural Britain?”

Presented by Professor Mike Hardy (British Council of Indonesia)

Noted by Noor Endah Tjahjaningtias

Student of Post Graduate Study

English Education Department of UHAMKA – Indonesia.

On Monday, 4 May 2009, I was invited to a seminar which is held as a collaboration of Centre for Dialogue and Co-operating among Civilizations (CDCC) and The British Council of Indonesia. The Seminar comes with the title of “Access and opportunity: Is there a new wind blowing in multicultural Britain?” and was presented by Professor Mike Hardy, the Program Area Leader for Intercultural Dialogue based at British Council headquarters in London.

I myself pay a very high appreciation on Mr. Hardy’s lecture, which in a certain way brought a new perspective of overcoming the problems of diversity. In this note, I would like to cite Mr. Hardy’s underlining on the important role of a dialogue around shared responsibilities as a way of solving problems of diversity.

Indonesia has known as a country with so many diversities in many sectors, which can be categorized, following Mr. Hardy’s explanation on the main challenge of the 21st century, as diversity of human communities, diversity of different ways of being and doing, and diversity of contemporary identities.

Diversity of human communities

The data of Internal Affairs Department of Republic Indonesia shows that in year 2004 there are 17.504 islands of Indonesia. Accordingly, there are at least 202 tribes occupying those islands (Wikipedia, updated on 13:29, 1 May 2009). Since these islands are separated by straits and seas, it is understandable that uniting them would need a serious effort. Instead of the tribes, there are Indonesian-European descendants (Indo), Indian-Indonesian descendants, and Tionghoa (Chinese descendants who are born and lived as Indonesian citizen). The fact that every of these race or tribes are tend to live in their own communities could brings serious problems in consolidating the whole nation as described in the national slogan “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika”.

In turn, the problem would become threats of segregation as the nation grows.

Diversity of different ways of being and doing

When we talk about the diversity of different ways of being and doing in Indonesia, the subject refers to the languages and behaviors of the people, namely “adat istiadat” (local costumes).

As we noticed, there were several riots in different places in Indonesia because of the conflict between tribes. To figure out the conflict, we could refresh our memory on the tribal war between Madurese and the Dayak at Sanggauledo – Kalimantan between December 1996 and January 1997. The Madurese from their home island (Madura) sent hundreds of their people to Kalimantan (Borneo) for joinning the war. They were sent in waves, but not a single person return because they were ambushed and killed as soon as they reached shore by the awaiting Dayak. The same tribal war between The Madurese and The Dayak happened in Sambas 1999 and Sampit 2001.

Instead of “adat istiadat”, some problems occur because of the diversity in religion/faith. To mention one example, we remember the Poso Riot in Central Sulawesi which was a conflict between Christians and Moslems. The Poso riot that happened in 1998 has caused 577 people died.

Diversity of contemporary identities

The diversity of contemporary identities in Indonesia, I can mention here, including gender issue, social gap of the rich-and-poor, the differentiating treatment of Indonesian government to the former PKI member (Partai Komunis Indonesia, Indonesian Communist Party) and their family, the differentiating treatment of Indonesian origin pupolace (pribumi) to the Chinese ethnic (Tionghoa), and many more.

Some questions then, rise in my head as the issue has to confront to the conditions of Indonesian’s people that I have mentioned before: Is it possible to conduct dialogue in Indonesia, which country has indigenous numbers of various diversity, including SARA (Suku = tribe, Agama = Religion, Ras = race) and social problems? How could a dialogue be conducted while the cost is so high yet the result took time to be achieved? Would the Indonesian Government allocate the budget on it while there are many priorities in social needs? Are the Indonesian people ready to have such dialogue? Are there credible mediators as the dialogue conducted?

While talking about diversity, more or less, Indonesia is facing the same problems as Britain or any other country in the world, but only in a different forms and maybe, a different way of solving them.

Regardless the constraints that occur along the way while conducting the more-peaceful way and produce mutual benefits for the participants, Mr. Hardy commented on the importance of dialogue, which I agree, the most suitable approach to cope with diversities.

Dialogue, as we are choosing to use the word, is a way of exploring the roots of the many crises that face humanity today. It enables inquiry into, and understanding of, the sorts of processes that fragment and interfere with real communication between individuals, nations and even different parts of the same organization… (Bohm, Factor and Garrett 1991)

Dialogue is, thus, speech across, between or through two people (as individuals, groups, or nations). It entails a particular kind of relationship and interaction. In this sense it is not so much a specific communicative form of question and answer, ‘but at heart a kind of social relation that engages its participants’ (Burbules 1993: 19). Therefore a dialogue entails certain virtues and emotions, which are:

  1. Concern. In being with our partners in conversation, to engage them with us, there is more going on than talk about the overt topic. There is a social bond that entails interest in, and a commitment to the other.
  2. Trust. We have to take what others are saying on faith – and there can be some risk in this.
  3. Respect. While there may be large differences between partners in conversation, the process can go on if there is mutual regard. This involves the idea that everyone is equal in some basic way and entails a commitment to being fair-minded, opposing degradation and rejecting exploitation.
  4. Appreciation. Linked to respect, this entails valuing the unique qualities that others bring.
  5. Affection. Conversation (please be read as: dialogue) involves a feeling with, and for, our partners.
  6. Hope. While not being purely emotional, hope is central. We engage in conversation in the belief that it holds possibility. Often it is not clear what we will gain or learn, but faith in the inherent value of education carries us forward.

For closing the note, I would like to describe dialogue as a “Word War” Era, the “war” that is declared in every effort of building a bridge in connecting differences and diversities among disagreements. Although such a dialogue requires sacrifices of the participants in many forms (and a big bunch of money, eventually), it is as Mr. Hardy said, “worth every penny of it”.

Thank you.

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