Pancasila: The foundational Philosophy of our National Values

(illustration: IO/Agung)

IO, Jakarta – The 1st of October is celebrated in Indonesia as “Pancasila Supremacy Day”: commemorated as the philosophical basis of the Nation, the fundamental ideology of the Indonesian people. It is unfortunate that in recent decades Pancasila has degenerated into a mere empty slogan for many. This is unacceptable, as Indonesians must move forward by prioritizing Pancasila in every move they make. The commitment to Pancasila as the Nation’s basic philosophy certifies that the State is a living presence in maintaining the people’s physical and political security, as well as satisfying people’s needs. As the Nation’s founding ideology Pancasila must be present in each heartbeat and breath of the Indonesian people in their daily lives. Without consistent implementation, Pancasila’s noble wording will simply become meaningless.

Practicing Pancasila
Iqbal Sultan, a Political Communications Expert from Hasanuddin University, observed that the practice of Pancasila during the New Order Era was different from the practice during this Era. During the military-backed New Order, everything was made to uniform – including knowledge of Pancasila. Pancasila education was taught consistently, in one style, from elementary school all the way to college. The Government paid close attention to the learning process and actual practice of Pancasila, and monitored these through both youth organizations and political “functional groups” (effectively parties).

Next, we entered a “Reform Era”, one which emphasizes freedom and self-learning, supported by rapidly-developing information technology. In the previous Era, information technology was not yet developed, State ideology Pancasila was mostly studied through books and discussions. “Now we no longer study this philosophy continuously from elementary school to college as we used to, as that type of learning process might be considered old-fashioned. Perhaps we should find a novel and more appropriate way to properly maintain our ideology. Pancasila should be teachable using a reformed, millennial style to preserve it from being neglected,” Iqbal Sultan stated.

Sultan further said that we only ever hear the name “Pancasila” when groups who feel more righteous and “Pancasilaist” debate each other Also when the establishment of the vastly-budgeted, much-spotlighted Pancasila Ideology Guidance Council (Badan Pembinaan Ideologi Pancasila – “BPIP”) was suddenly announced. This really revealed that Pancasila for many is still nothing but a slogan, bandied about as a shield for what hidden objective any passionate individual or group is promoting.

Ironically and unfortunate­ly, people who feel themselves more Pancasilaist do not tend to conduct their actions, let alone live their lives, according to  Pancasila values. Nowadays, a lot of people claim themselves to be righteous Pancasilaists without really knowing – let alone living – according to its ideology and philosophy. Pancasila is more than just memorizing the five tenets of Pancasila. It is even more than correctly remembering the 36 Points of Pancasila Implementation of 1978, or the 45 Points of Pancasila Implementation of 2003. It is daily behavior and a lifestyle that strongly reflects certain specific values.

Sigit Rochadi, a Sociologist from National University, states that practical Pancasila daily behavior should be part of the curriculum, from elementary school to college. Students of all ages should be required to be able to correctly identify common behavior exhibited by their family and friends that is compliant or conflicts with Pancasila. Instead of mere memorization, taking practical examples from daily living is required. This practical education should be supplemented by living examples from influential adults, particularly political elites. They may seek and hold power, but they must not do so through divisive, self-aggrandizing methods that a young generation might imitate as a bad example.

Currently, no direct or apparent threats towards Pancasila are discerned. However, its influence is clearly waning. For example, intolerance and group snobbism have been rising within the Government. There have been cases of discrimination where, for example, A is prevented from being a public servant in a certain region because he is of Sundanese descent, or B can only serve as a public servant in Java because she is of Javanese descent. This shows how Pancasila in practice has weakened, that Pancasila’s concepts are abided by; further, there are indications that certain people are actively eroding Pancasila and seek to replace it with other values.

Ismail Hanani, Setara Institute’s Research Director, points out that Pancasila is commemorated twice a year since the start of the Reform Era. First, Pancasila Supremacy Day, previously decreed by President Soeharto during the early days of his government. This was the day Pancasila was known to have stood fast against an attempted coup d’état staged by the Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia – “PKI”) in the mid-1960s. Later, however, a number of influential people in the Reform Era announced that Soeharto was merely making a political move. Therefore, 1st of June 1945, which was the first time Pancasila was publicly announced as the Nation’s basic philosophy by our Nation’s founding father, President Soekarno, has since 2017 been commemorated as “Pancasila’s Anniversary”. “These are two distinct celebrations,” Ismail Hanani observed. “One is to celebrate the official birth of Pancasila, and the other is to celebrate the fact that it has withstood a terrible test of time.”

The understanding of Pancasila in general has seriously declined from that of a previous era. There are two possible causes: in the past, people did not implement Pancasila comprehensively, while students and public servants were indoctrinated with it so thoroughly that they at least understand the gist of it. In the Reform Era, Pancasila is no longer studied or indoctrinated so thoroughly. The general approach is to attempt to internalize the ideology informally, through daily behavior, by making it part of the daily lives of Indonesian citizens.

This movement did not yield results because it is too vague and unstructured. A crisis of comprehension about Pancasila resulted, and along with it there have sprung up many alien ideologies that do in fact conflict with Pancasila. This is why the Government of Indonesia established the BPIP: it realizes that our people are currently ideologically weak. “We performed our own survey in 2012. We discovered that the efforts made by the People’s Consultative Assembly (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat – ‘MPR’) through its 4 Pillars of the Nation program (“Pancasila as the State’s philosophical and ideological basis, the Constitution of 1945 as the State Constitution, the Unitary Republic of Indonesia (Negara Kesatuan Republic Indonesia – “NKRI”) as the State Form, and “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” (“Unity in Diversity”) as the State Motto) are not yet acceptable or properly understandable by the people,” Ismail Hanani said.

And secondly, we lack proper examples from our own political elites. “Our survey shows that one of the necessary things that we need in order to be able to internalize any belief, in this case Pancasila, is living examples. In other words, the crisis of exemplary behavior among the elites is yet another reason why people have been neglecting Pancasila. If we want our citizens to obey and believe in Pancasila, our elites must be exemplary first. Therefore, the example from the elites is the key that will enable citizens to adapt to and internalize Pancasila. If the elites are disrespectful to Pancasila in their behavior, this will become impractical. That is the crux of our discovery about the way to disseminate Pancasila,” he said.

It is undeniable that Pancasila is only partially relevant to our daily lives. As a national ideology, Pancasila is not yet sufficiently internalized by all citizens. It can be assumed that if the national ideology is something that is espoused by all citizens, we can resolve many national issues. Yet in fact various challenges continue to occur – not sporadically, but massively, thus requiring special handling.

An example of this is how we need to have both the People’s Representative Council (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”) and the President, the two parties having legislative authority, create legal products that are in line with Pancasila. For example, when managing public resources that are vital to the lives of many, we must make sure that laws pertaining to something of this importance, such as agriculture or fuel, are drafted in such a way that they reflect the Fifth Tenet of Pancasila, i.e. “Social Justice for All Indonesian Citizens”. Yet our laws related to things such as the governance policy of small islands, coastal reclamation, forestry, and lands fail to comply with this tenet in their application. This means that our operational regulations that guide asset and land distri­bution corrode the welfare of the people instead of benefiting them.

Mahfud M. D., a member of the BPIP Directing Council, states that actually both the people and the elites understand Pancasila quite well. It is when the necessity arises to implement the tenets, that they become weak. This is proven by the high incidence of violations: of laws, a code of ethics, and other transgressions across Indonesia. In order to establish a better, more practical understanding, the Government has established the BPIP. Existing community organizations must also play their part in furthering this active element in society.

Devie Rahmawati, a Social Observer from the University of Indonesia, believes that Pancasila is so exalted that it is difficult for common people to understand. Therefore, it must be simplified and brought down to earth. Previous generations were given Pancasila Morality Education (Pendidikan Moral Pancasila – “PMP”) in their elementary education curriculum, which was later upgraded to Pancasila and Civics Education (Pendidikan Pancasila dan Kewarganegaraan – “PPKN”) in middle schools and high schools. In fact, Pancasila was studied thoroughly all the way to university level. “So, we need to bring Pancasila down to a practical level. What is the practical application of “Believe in the one Supreme God” in daily lives? Those who diligently perform their daily salat at home or the mosque, those who diligently meditate on their rosaries and go to church – they already practice the First Tenet. The Pancasila ‘brand’ needs ‘rebranding’ in order for it to fit in with today’s generation,” she said.

Devie then explained that the core of Pancasila is not simply to ritually memorize slogans, but rather to implement deeds. “So, let’s say there’s a Japanese person who keeps clean and orderly for the sake of the community, or who bows politely to greet or thank others, that is ‘Pancasila-istic’. As Pancasila implies courtesy and respect, gestures like kissing the hand of elders and bowing conform to Pancasila,” she affirmed.

Pancasila is actually embedded deep within the DNA of all Indonesians. Unfortunately, most of us are not aware of this important aspect of our character. We should never consider Pancasila to be a new, foreign value, as it is in fact a positive inheritance from our forefathers.

Excessive Freedom
Sigit Rochadi stated that Pancasila has now been eroded by excessive freedom. This is shown in the fact that specific groups have strengthened and shown dislike and intolerance of other groups. Intolerance in general flourishes, social solidarity weakens, and understanding of the Divine has also dropped. Such tension actually flourishes more in relation to the very first Tenet of Pancasila, the one that pertains to religious faith. As comprehension of Pancasila declines, practice of its Tenets also suffers.

This has actually gone on for quite some time. In the New Order Era, Pancasila was the tool used by the Government to legitimize its legal and political positions. It was not practiced, but rather abused to subdue political opponents. Following the calamities of the multi-dimensional crises, Pancasila was neglected. Conflicts and frictions between community groups arose, violence and genocide and the burning of religious facilities still go on, all because the people no longer believe in Pancasila strongly enough to implement it properly.

Just before Soeharto’s downfall, ethnic killings and religious violence took place in many regions. Some groups gained a foothold by preying on people’s insecurities, to promote religious and racial distrust. They then expanded their efforts to divide the people into groups that hate and distrust each other, to strengthen the belief that one faith is better than all the others, and finally, to erase Pancasila and replace it with religious governance. The national Government failed to respond adequately to this threat, causing the people’s faith in the sacredness of Pancasila to erode more and more every day.

“Intolerance gets stronger and stronger, even in schools today. Schoolchildren start to agree that students of different faiths should not be allowed to pray in their way. They object that people of a different faith should never be their leaders. They start to agree that people of different faiths should not be allowed to establish their own praying facilities. All this grew from the Government’s delay in failing to suppress such undemocratic views, allowing them to sprout in the first place. In fact, even women and children have started to expressly attack the framework of the nation in social media. The research performed by Wahid Institute last year also shows how intolerance has become stronger,” Sigit warned.

The Indonesian people generally agree that Pancasila needs to be preserved, as Pancasila is a sound philosophical basis for the State and it extends protection to all. But on the other hand, quite a few members of the majority are actually against giving equal rights to minorities, whether in terms of religious worship, economy, or politics. This application is actually against Pancasila. These people only accept Pancasila formally, but the views that they actually express, the actions that they actually take, directly contravene Pancasila. This is shown by the fact that there is persecution against members of specific religions, ethnicity, and more recently, political views (including which presidential candidate to support). This is far from the human values of justice, courtesy, and respect implicitly espoused in Pancasila.

Our country has undergone a great leap in the usage of mass media. In advanced countries, elementary and middle school children may use cellphones, but they may not freely access the internet. They may not use it to access video sites, games, etc. Cellphones are simply a means for them to communicate with their parents, teachers, and schoolmates. Furthermore, socially and economically-advanced countries have transitioned across media usage in stages. In our country, people who never bothered to read the newspaper or listen to the news on TV are suddenly given access to worldwide social media, with no awareness of just how widely the impact of their careless writings might resound. They take any and all information spread throughout social media as true, and they do not check the accuracy of such information – because they do not know how to do so. They are easily provoked by any news item, and they also react extravagantly when somebody disagrees with them. This gives rise to a chain of escalating emotional reactions, and sinister hoax broadcasters have a field day.

Pancasila must be studied in our formal educational curriculum and implemented in our daily lives. In the past, the top brass (Government) held seminars and training sessions for public servants and the public, indoctrinating them in the national spirit like businessmen imbue corporate philosophies in their employees. This is erroneous, and we must not continue to follow this pattern. The “4 Pillar” model MPR developed is no different from previous attempts. It is even erroneously named as “4” Pillars. Pancasila as the philosophical basis of the nation complements the legal basis, i.e. the Constitution of 1945. The Nation’s basis should instead be based on 3 Pillars. The concept itself is fine, at least on paper – but it is the means of dissemination that must be changed.

As a specific example, national social media was recently abuzz with the #Saya Indonesia (“#ImIndonesia”) and #SayaPancasila (“#ImPancasila”) hashtags. Sigit Rochadi said that these hashtags are merely random responses or branches of the #2019GantiPresiden (“#2019ChangePresidents”) hashtag. “So, the idea that Indonesian society is based on Pancasila is not an original idea. It is simply the resurfacing of something that has been buried for ages. The concept behind the #SayaIndonesia #SayaPancasila hashtag is basically the same concept as the #2019GantiPresiden hashtag, in that they are merely political slogans generated in order to arouse political impact beyond their actual meanings. They are really not expressions of actual concern,” he said.

Iqbal Sultan believes that these hashtags suddenly arise because some of our citizens feel that their fellows are not Pancasilaistic, or are at least less Pancasilaistic than they are. “They feel themselves more Pancasilaistic and more Indonesian, and that people who do not use the tags are not Pancasilaistic, or at least less Pancasilaistic than them. It is this sense of false superiority that I absolutely criticize. Is there any way at all to guarantee that the people who use such tags are more Pancasilaistic, in that they study Pancasila in deeper depth, that they know Pancasila more comprehensively, and finally that they act according to Pancasila values? That is impossible to ascertain! People should maintain their diversity more – they should not blame others unnecessarily, they should not feel themselves superior, more Indonesian, more Pancasilaistic than other citizens,” he said.

Furthermore, “I see that it is rather late for us to try and remain loyal to Pancasila. We can see this from the fact that we are very vulnerable to differentiating ourselves, in persecuting others, in feeling ourselves to be more “Pancasilaistic”. Our elites seem to be showing mutual respect and friendliness by shaking hand and smiling to each other on stage, but their first and second circles viciously debate with and blame one another. We truly lack good exemplars lately. They are necessary at all levels, from elites to common families. Even informal household meetings that bring family members closer together have decreased in frequency, robbing children of good examples of behavior and manners. Most human social examples are replaced by the social media nowadays,” Sultan said.

Devie Rahmawati states that the #SayaIndonesia and #SayaPancasila hashtags are actually people’s means to express and emphasize their pride of being Indonesians. The recent Asian Games has provided exciting momentum that allowed everyone from various backgrounds to support Indonesian athletes without caring about tribal descent, race, or religion. “When you truly love your country, you are a Pancasilaist for sure,” she said.

“The excitement over the #SayaIndonesia and #SayaPancasila hashtags was simply the expression of citizens who want to encourage each other to return to a love of Pancasila. However, this country needs more than mere hashtags, it needs real action. Regulating a republic needs more than hashtags. It requires systematic steps from all elements of the State in order to achieve an aspired situation,” Ismail Hanani said.

Pancasila is not Outdated
Pancasila is not and will never be outdated. Sultan believes that the values of Pancasila’s five tenets will never be outdated, because they are related to relationships with God and among our fellow men. The Government’s current economic issues were caused by the fact that we are too dependent on economic styles imposed on us by other countries. We do not have a distinctly Indonesian economic flow based on Pancasila. All of our national behavior and organization must have their own Indonesian style, even though we are currently in a Globalization Era. We must not let Pancasila degrade into a mere symbol that we idolize and brandish as our support when we feel righteous. Pancasila should be implemented thoroughly in our country and nation. This is our special characteristic: we have such diversity in comparison to other countries, which we must unite and bind using Pancasila.

Threats to Pancasila mostly come from within ourselves. The moment somebody feels more righteous and superior to others, we get ready to face great threats. The most important thing is actually to understand and accept one another. If somebody else becomes better and more popular than us, we should not be envious of them and try to obstruct them. We should leave them alone, as popularity has its own limited period. Such envy and hatred will result in persecution, which would sow the seeds of our own destruction. Pancasila will continue to exist as a bond among us if we understand each other. We must respect diversity and be respectful of anyone who is more prominent than ourselves.

Ismail Hanani believes that the national ideology in any country is a “bulls-eye target” that has a huge potential of being attacked, weakened, and conquered. As we all know, wars nowadays are no longer great physical affairs that require the mobilization of massed armies, weaponry, soldiers, etc.: our wars are now basically wars of ideas. This is part of the threat that we must be aware of. The worst threats always come from within, and can emerge from anyone. It is ourselves; we are our own worst enemies, and threats fail to give way or stand as good examples to others. If we are weak, it will be easy for others to disturb us.

Sultan states that we should never forget our Eastern philosophy in running our political organizations, especially in the upcoming presidential elections. Seeking too much power can destroy our nation’s unity. Candidates are more than welcome to strengthen their constituency, but they must do so in accordance with our basic values. We need to watch ourselves, as the rapid development of information technology sharply affects our daily behavior. This is reflected in the fact that our political system no longer shows Indonesian characteristics.

“I see that the BPIP is barely there, is ineffective and makes practically no difference. We should all start with basic education, but we have already eliminated it and tried to replace it with something else. We should also consider the historical factor. History is extremely important: you must not forget it because it contains lessons and deep philosophy. People who never study history are missing out on a great part of their life stories. For example, children nowadays no longer know anything about the PKI, while the MPR Decree relating to PKI remains in effect. How can we implement Pancasila if we don’t know the history behind it – how we earned our independence, how intense were the discussions held in the days before the Preamble to the Constitution of 1945 was completed? We need to know the stories that precede those too, including the history of the ancient kingdoms in our country. The Government unfortunately neglects this, giving rise to the vagueness about their own origins apparent in the current millennial generation. When the generation of 50 years or older dies out, our history will die with them unless we do something now,” Sultan warns.

“Pancasila is closely related to the Presidential Elections, because it is a basis for holding elections in the first place,” Ismail Hanani said. “Therefore, Pancasila should be revered to as the philosophy that delineates the primary values in our lives. I believe that we have spent a lot of effort to generate new methods to disseminate Pancasila. In our view, Pancasila must remain alive in the imagination of our nation’s children. Pancasila must be taught and discussed in a cultural perspective so that it really sticks in the heart and minds of our citizens. You cannot do this with mere rote memorization. We must remember that our educational curriculum may have Civic Education, but it contains too little content devoted to Pancasila. We need to adopt new efforts and approaches to Pancasila education in our formal educational curricula. This will serve us as a philosophical and ideological pillar. It is the basis of thought and action, like the way a religion – let’s say Islam – is only known through the deeds of the people who have been taught Islamic philosophies. As citizens, we need to recognize that it is the most important item in our national agenda,” Ismail said.

Devie Rahmawati believes that the credibility of Pancasila in the public eye must be restored. If people start to do what they say, they will preserve the values of Pancasila instead of eroding them. “It is not Pancasila that is destructive, but the people who claim to implement Pancasila who threaten it,” she said.

Sigit Rochadi believes that the main concern is the fact that Pancasila values have been diluted among the elites, especially politicians, because they are not united in their ideas of Pancasila. For example, some organizations clearly want to replace Pancasila, while other political elites misuse Pancasila as a shield to show that they are “Indonesians”. They do not have a clear concept of what “Pancasila” is. Some parties refer to the concept of Pancasila as formulated by Bung Karno. Other parties state that Pancasila only applies to Islam, as it was formulated by a Muslim. For example, the first tenet, “Believe in the one Supreme God”, applies only to Islam, and other religions are not to be considered. It is a sad truth that such conflicting ideas about Pancasila our elites have mean there are deviations which clearly contradict the actual spirit of this noble philosophy.

Pancasila is a philosophy, a guide that we need to put into practice in our daily lives. To put it briefly, the first tenet teaches us Indonesians to live religiously and spiritually, to recognize that our lives are a temporary gift from the Divine, and thus we must act accordingly. The second tenet, “Just and Civilized Humanity”, tells us to treat everyone and everything around us in a fair and civilized manner, including animals and property. The third tenet, “Unity of Indonesia”, teaches us that we must realize that all Indonesians are one, no matter what our race, ethnic origins, or religious faiths may be, and we should not exaggerate our differences and create unnecessary conflicts. The fourth tenet, “Democracy Led by the Wisdom of Deliberations among Representatives”, mean that we as the common people participate indirectly in the making of the decisions that govern us and affect our daily lives by choosing representatives that we can trust and rely on, whether at a village, municipal, regency, provincial, or national level. And the final tenet, “Social Justice for the Whole of the Indonesian People”, means that everyone must be treated the same and decently. We need to ensure that none of our fellow citizens starve or suffer, or can do nothing to maintain their survival.

Pancasila should be our number one reference in recruiting political elites. Anyone who want to take a first, second, or third echelon position; anyone who want to be a member of the DPR or president, must first prove their loyalty to Indonesia by adhering to Pancasila. We must not select anyone who has a bad track record of acting contrary to Pancasila as a basic philosophy and ideology that guides us in our daily living.

(Dessy Aipipidely, Ekawati)