What are so great about culture, arts, science, and technology?

August 21, 2010

Qusthan Abqary

Indonesian art and cultural situations tend to become more and more libertarian since the fall of authoritarian New Order regime in 1998. One Indonesian prominent writer, Taufik Ismail, calls this phenomenon as Gerakan Syahwat Merdeka (GSM / Free Lust Movements) which refers to some writers, artists, and cultural workers who are directly connected and actively engage with Utan Kayu Community and Salihara Community.

Younger generation could be confuse whether art, literature, and cultural works should be as free as possible until there is no boundary at all or there are some limits of it. The former might tends to be what I call as the libertarian artists, writers, and cultural workers while the latter considers that those limits are connected with the history of art, literature, and cultural works it selves.

On the one hand, the libertarian writers and cultural workers arbitrarily basing their banal argument to the sake of freedom or liberty without defining it and in what way they think about it. Just doing whatever they want to do in writing or cultural works without the obligation to consider the other’s interest or values are, in my opinion, not so much different with violating the other’s freedom or liberty. Their senses of engagement with the traditional values are so minimalist and limited only to the sake of what will bring financial benefits for them. Moreover, if there are no traditional values which would bring benefits, they have no doubt to break and throw those values to their home’s garbage.

On the other hand, the ordinary writers and cultural workers mostly realize that their field works cannot be fully detached with the traditional values and morals. Mochtar Lubis wrote, “At the beginnings, arts were appeared from the need of human being to the ‘mysteriousness,’ from its instinct to communicate with and mobilize invisible powers to fulfill their daily needs.” Moreover, he emphasized that “Futuristic arts should go back to its original sources, which are its humanity, go back to the values which make human needs arts, and arts become meaningful for the human life.” (“Seni Seniman dan Masa Depan,” Horison, July, 1978).

This opinion, in certain sense, could be implemented at the field of literature, theatre, or other cultural works. Ancient people made many handicrafts or other things in order to honors the divine power even though the power was embedded on the natural phenomenon. Recently, most countries are dealing not only with the cultural issues but also with the development of science and technology.

Equal development of science and technology among non-western countries like China, India, Iran, Japan, Singapore and others, should be anticipated by the western countries with the attitude of respect and no prejudices. This development of science and technology could be best describe as “Asia is catching up even more rapidly than previously thought, Europe is holding its position more than most would expect, and the Middle East is a region to watch,” one report says.

Those facts indirectly support one saying about the – using Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s term –‘backflow’ from the south – or generally Asia – to the north – or commonly Europe – is not impossible in accordance to one report that Asia shares 155% of the world scientific growth since 1980 to 2009. Undoubtedly, Asia’s growth in science and technology surpass the Northern America in 2009 (Science-Metrix, 30 Years in Science: Secular Movements in Knowledge Creation).

Another intriguing things came from Google which would like to tell people what they should do next and not only answering the questions (Holman W. Jenkins Jr., “Google and the Search for the Future,” Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2010). Can you imagine the social, cultural and even the psychological effects if one online machine tells – even better than we ourselves think or plan about our lives – about what ought to be done by someone?

I think some people who would like to be ordered by the machine shows not only their lacked of freedom but also their unawareness of acts which against the nature of human being who should control over the machine and not vice versa. Additionally, Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, predicts that most young persons would like to change his or her name or identity whenever they just reach their own adulthood in order to separate their past teenage life which could embarrass in the future.

One important definition of technology saying that technology is the mix of science and arts should bear in youth’s mind if they would like to handle their life with technology. It means that technologies itself is not free value-laden but intervene by the arts (and culture) where they were being invented or discovered. Therefore, every single response to the development of science and technology would be best do in the frame of the national strategy of culture than in some spontaneous ways or banal attitudes of each individual. The present of national strategy of culture could save the next generations not only from GSM but also their lost of identity and being controlled by the technological and machinery ways of life. So, arts and culture are not only about poem, literature, traditional handicrafts and so on and so fort, but also about science and technology. As a result, the so great things of culture, arts, science, and technology would be their comprehensiveness and unity in order to serve the sake of humanity and well human beings.

Tentang Penulis

Qusthan Abqary - I am a lecturer and teach some subjects such as Ethics and Social Awareness, Corporate Governance and Ethics, Business Ethics, Critical and Creative Thinking and others. My research interests are political philosophy, ethics, peace, and war.

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