Jumat, 30 Januari 2009

I Want a Ring, You Give Me Crescents

A week ago, a friend of mine send me a short message. He told me that Heaven will give me a ring. “A silver ring,” he said. He invited me to receive the ring in a beautiful place, entitled as Smiley Gate. He provided me a sophisticated tray to accept the awaited gift. “You can take your students with you to the ceremony. But don’t be late, because you just have one chance,” he said.

Unfortunately, I cannot satisfy his invitation. Actually, I have no good reason to make him disappointed. Maybe I just infected by demophobia combined with slight xenophobia, and I can’t bear this phobia that day especially because the absurd feeling invaded me in recent times. So, only my students come to take their rings with joy to the ceremony.

Then, I made my own ceremony in my own stage. I did my best to heal my disappointment.

My simple salver made from used cardboard lining with sheet of papers. This idea came to me after I had browsed the internet. Two students helped me to create that. And the outcome was great.

I had waited for roughly one hour. But the ring still hid. I wondered why it was reluctant to touch the simple salver, the simple stage. Until around 90 minutes, finally, the ring sent the crescent to me. A tiny bright crescent glowed in the darkness of the cardboard.

But the real amazing magic came not in the cardboard. It came under the trees. The trees came to be the wizard’s broom, presenting the crescents in the wall and the surface of the ground. The beautiful silver crescents danced as the wind blew.

When the sun went down, the crescents faded away. Maybe they took a long trip to a beautiful place in the west together with the sun. Maybe they sailed to nowhere. Maybe they sailed to eternity.

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Minggu, 18 Januari 2009

The Rich Country and the Irony of Electricity

In our time, modern people have high necessity to technology, even those who live in a rural area, like me. In an extreme expression, modern people were enslaved by technology. I’m certain about this when in current several months, I’m troubled by the electricity. Working with computer, the electricity suddenly was off. I have rescued by the UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) for a few minutes and I had time to shut down my PC safely.

This incident occurs almost every day. Sometimes it’s happens just for a few seconds, a few minutes, and sometimes until more than 10 hours. Many activities, official and individual, ceased. The scheduled plan has to be postponed. The UPS cannot give more help for the emergency situation for computer. It’s just prevention for further damages.

But actually there are another Indonesian people who have worse situation than me. Tempo Interactive wrote that more than 30 thousand villages in Indonesia have no electricity. Faisal Basri asserted that only a half of household that have electricity in Indonesia—Thailand supplied 84 % of total household with electricity. I think this is really an irony of our rich country. We have much kind of resources that can be turned into supply of energy. But the fact is so ridiculous.

Yesterday night, when the electricity was off, I read the last section of the novel by Andrea Hirata, Edensor, in the dim glow of a candle. But the spirit of the storyboard ignited me to finish the book. I found a kind of nostalgic feeling that night, blended by stream of stunning words in the novel. The life span of the candle not so long, but fortunately I can reach the last word of the novel before the candle has gone out. And when the candlelight was finally extinguished, the darkness came back to its throne. And that night, the irony of electricity lasted for several hours.

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Kamis, 15 Januari 2009

Faces Hanging on the Trees

Nowadays, Indonesian people are ready to welcome the legislative election. Next April, the election will be performed. With the background of global financial crisis, can this election bring the people’s hope of a new good life into reality? Is it suitable to hang the better future on this election?

When I was a student, my teacher explained that legislative election (“pemilu”) is a celebration of democracy. It is a time when people vote their choice to determine their representative. At that time, actually I never exactly knew what kind of celebration or what kind of party it is.

In the reformation era, there are so many parties participate to the election. Reformation had destroyed the despotic power of the state placed people’s freedom of expression in the stuffy jail for so long time. Whoever has an opinion about one thing can convey it without fear. Political participation becomes extensive. Public policies are wide open to criticism.

But reformation is also about the power. The power is not centralized again. Anyone has a power, and can use it. The reality is, the power broken into pieces and the people struggle to obtain those pieces. The exertion is indicated by the intense effort to gain the power. We can see it this time, when the election approaches.

Campaign for the election had started several months ago. Some candidates have entered into action. They fought to perform their planned strategies for raising the support from the people. Tight competition led the candidates to take whatever action they need. Today, most popular tactics to increase the support is using poster, sticker, or a kind of simple billboard. The penetration of popular technology around the country provides easy access to use this strategy. Even in the rural area, we can find traditional company with silk-screen printing or hand press technology.

As a result, now, three months before the election, in the side of the road, highway, or pathway, we can find many faces hanging on the trees. They pose with the best performance, give their best smile, dress in their best wardrobe. Moreover, sometimes, they usually also pledge their best promise.

But their smile and their promise just for the voters—not for the trees. The trees suffered from the posters. I can feel it. A report asserted that the trees in Surabaya which are nailed with the posters of Governor Candidates threatened to be died. Klub Tunas Hijau Surabaya inquired this case and concluded that the trees will be died in the next one or two years.

But the candidates have nothing to do with the trees. Their goal is only to win the election. And they can do anything for that. If we complain and ask them about this, maybe they will answer quickly: “Democracy is not cheap. There is something that must we pay for it.”

This time, maybe the trees are the martyr of our democracy. They sacrifice their future. Their life. But, is that equal with the result we reach?

In fact, I am truly infuriated at candidates of legislative who is nailing his poster to the trees. For me, this is a reflection of their indifferences to the conservation of environment. Are they, to some extent, selfish? If they show no empathy to the trees, is it possible that they will have much compassion to the poor people around this country? Is it possible that they will be the savior of democracy?

Our democracy need to be saved. But our one-earth need to be saved too. And, believe me, the trees are the hero of the earth. Our hero. We have to take care of them and assure their future, because their green future is also our future.

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Minggu, 11 Januari 2009

Bahasa Ibu dan Politik Kebudayaan Nasional

Ancaman kepunahan bahasa ibu—atau yang populer disebut bahasa daerah—terjadi di seluruh nusantara. Agustus lalu, Multamia RMT Lauder dari Departemen Linguistik Fakultas Ilmu Pengetahuan Budaya Universitas Indonesia dalam Seminar “Empowering Local Language Through ICT” di Jakarta mengungkapkan bahwa dari 742 bahasa daerah di Indonesia, 169 terancam punah karena berpenutur kurang dari 500 orang. Hanya 13 bahasa saja yang penuturnya lebih dari satu juta orang (Kompas, 12/08/08).

Menghadapi masalah ini, masyarakat lokal di berbagai penjuru nusantara memberi perhatian—di antaranya—dengan menggelar kongres bahasa daerah. September 2006, di Semarang diselenggarakan Kongres Bahasa Jawa IV. November 2007, di Bandar Lampung dilangsungkan Kongres Bahasa-Bahasa Daerah Wilayah Barat. Di penghujung 2008 ini, tepatnya 15-19 Desember kemarin, di Pamekasan digelar Kongres Bahasa Madura.

Peta persoalan yang dihadapi bahasa ibu terkait dengan ancaman kepunahannya saat ini di antaranya berakar pada problem dokumentasi, fungsi dan sosialisasi, dan kelembagaan. Dokumentasi karya berbahasa ibu kurang digalakkan, sementara orientasi fungsionalnya juga masih penuh tanda tanya, dan sulit pula menemukan lembaga sosial formal maupun nonformal yang secara konsisten mengawal pelestarian bahasa ibu.

Dalam konteks bahasa Madura, tak dapat dipungkiri bahwa pesantren hingga kini menjadi salah satu lembaga yang turut merawat pelestarian bahasa Madura. Selain digunakan sebagai bahasa pengantar terutama dalam pengajian kitab-kitab kuning, di pesantren-pesantren tradisional bahasa Madura dipandang sebagai simbol tatakrama pergaulan sehari-hari. Akan tetapi, peran pesantren dalam melestarikan bahasa Madura saat ini terancam karena transformasi kelembagaan yang dialami pesantren. Banyak pesantren tradisional yang mulai mengadopsi sistem pendidikan formal dan perlahan mulai meninggalkan bahasa Madura sebagai bahasa pengantar keilmuan dan bahasa pergaulan.

Pada titik inilah kita kemudian dapat merasakan tarik-menarik, atau mungkin ruang negosiasi, antara bahasa ibu dan bahasa nasional. Di satu sisi, seperti diuraikan oleh Soedjatmoko (1984: 135-139), di era pembangunan memaknai kemerdekaan, bahasa Indonesia telah menjalankan fungsinya sebagai bahasa kenegaraan, bahasa perantara dalam pergaulan antardaerah, serta menjadi wadah tunggal informasi untuk kemajuan dan pembangunan. Transformasi sosial, seperti meningkatnya mobilitas horizontal dan vertikal, proses urbanisasi serta proses modernisasi, telah memperluas penggunaan bahasa Indonesia.

Di sisi yang lain, bahasa ibu tak mampu menunjukkan secara jelas fungsi praktis dan progresif yang signifikan, terutama dalam iklim perubahan sosial yang begitu cepat dan semakin mendunia. Bahasa ibu tampak “hanya” memiliki fungsi sebagai penjaga nilai-nilai kebudayaan lokal. Jadi, semacam fungsi konservasi nilai saja. Itu pun di tengah gerusan zaman yang menantang pendefinisian ulang nilai-nilai kebudayaan lokal tersebut berhadapan dengan nilai dan peradaban global.

Dengan kondisi demikian, tak heran jika berbagai lembaga kultural di masyarakat seperti pesantren, atau juga seni tradisi, yang sebelumnya—mungkin tanpa disadari banyak pihak—cukup banyak berpartisipasi dan berkontribusi merawat bahasa Madura secara perlahan mulai berkurang peranannya. Kebutuhan dan tuntutan masyarakat terhadap sistem pendidikan pesantren untuk juga ikut mengakomodasi “sistem negara” atau untuk menjadi lebih “modern” secara dilematis menggiring berkurangnya porsi penggunaan bahasa Madura di pesantren sebagai bahasa keilmuan dan bahasa pergaulan. Sementara itu, seni tradisi semakin kurang diminati, karena desakan kultur global yang berciri monolitik. Politik kebudayaan nasional ternyata berdampak pada peminggiran peran bahasa ibu.

Sampai di sini kita melihat bahwa perhatian dan sikap negara untuk memosisikan bahasa ibu dalam kaitannya dengan bahasa nasional ternyata masih belum cukup jelas. Bahasa ibu tak dipandang sebagai bagian dari masalah nasional. Padahal, daya tahan dan kelestarian bahasa ibu tak cukup hanya dipikirkan dan diselesaikan oleh masyarakat penggunanya saja. Untuk itu, strategi dan politik kebudayaan (nasional) yang akan dikembangkan dengan kenyataan masyarakat yang menggunakan dwibahasa ini (bahasa ibu dan bahasa nasional) sudah semestinya dipertegas.

Di wilayah manakah bahasa ibu akan dikembangkan dan dipergunakan dalam kehidupan sehari-hari? Siapa dan langkah apa saja yang perlu dilakukan di lapangan? Mungkinkah memperkuat kembali bahasa ibu melalui momen-momen kultural yang secara tradisional dan popular diselenggarakan masyarakat—yang belakangan cenderung digantikan dengan bahasa nasional? Dengan mengeksplorasi pertanyaan semacam ini, nantinya mungkin akan lebih jelas pula jalan keluar terkait dengan pranata sosio-kultural yang secara khusus bergiat melestarikan bahasa ibu tersebut. Artinya, rekomendasi pengembangan dan pembinaan bahasa ibu akan menemukan jangkar kulturalnya dalam kehidupan masyarakat.

Salah satu contoh kecil dari dialektika bahasa ibu dan politik kebudayaan nasional dapat diangkat dari kasus penyerapan istilah asing. Akhmad Baihaqie, seorang lulusan Universitas Al-Azhar Kairo jurusan Bahasa dan Sastra Arab, dalam salah satu tulisannya (Kompas, 1/8/08) mempertanyakan mengapa bahasa Indonesia lebih banyak menyerap istilah asing dari bahasa Inggris dan Arab. Mengapa tidak memanfaatkan ratusan bahasa daerah sebagai sumber kata serapan, seperti yang dilakukan Majma Lughah al-Arabiyah (Pusat Bahasa Arab) yang cenderung menghidupkan kembali kosakata arkais dalam khazanah kebahasaan yang mereka miliki untuk digunakan dan dipopulerkan kembali? Politik bahasa seperti dalam contoh ini dapat menjadi gambaran tentang negosiasi antara bahasa ibu dan bahasa nasional.

Perumusan strategi budaya untuk melestarikan kekayaan lokal bahasa ibu ini tampaknya akan lebih baik jika dimulai dari bawah, dari masyarakat penutur bahasa ibu itu sendiri, dengan pelaku-pelaku yang bergiat di lembaga formal maupun nonformal yang bersentuhan langsung dengan pelestarian bahasa ibu. Sepertinya, masalah politik dan strategi kebudayaan bahasa ibu ini menjadi salah satu agenda strategis yang penting dibicarakan tidak saja oleh para pemerhati bahasa dan budaya daerah, tetapi oleh elemen bangsa yang lebih luas.


Tulisan ini dimuat di Harian Jawa Pos, 11 Januari 2009.

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Examine the Exam

This week, the students here perform examination in their school. The students are being assessed whether their knowledge in particular subject they had learned was good enough. Normally, there are two subjects that are examined every day. This following Friday, the exam will come to an end.

Some days ago, there was a student wrote a short report about how the students prepare for this exam. The report focused to one of districts in this boarding. He wrote that there was a different situation in the boarding when the examination had started. In contrast to normal time, students were reviewed and learned their subject seriously. There weren’t noises of the student that was chatting with their friend in the front porch of boarding. There weren’t students messing around the street in the boarding—let alone students wasting their time in an unproductive or aimless manner. The students searched quiet places so that they can concentrate to reread their lessons.

Although we can find the fact that the students tend to increase their intensity to study in the examination days, not only now, I maintain that I still can get the different between past time and nowadays students. Past time students prepared the examination not only in the night before the exam. We can say that maybe this is a kind of pragmatic attitude of the students. They appear to be lazy to study hard except in the time of examination. They seem to be very afraid when their answer sheet in the exam is empty. Study hard is still not become their habit. Study maybe just like a medicine to resolve their nightmare of failing the exam.

Well! But the big problem about the exam maybe is our peripheral perception about the exam: that the exam is only of the students. I assume that no many teachers realize that in fact this examination not only concerns with the students. Now, when I become a teacher, struggling every day with the students and the lesson—naughty students, indiscipline of the students, boring class situations, dull material books—, I become aware about a new thing: the exam actually is also about the teacher, even the school, the community, the curriculum, the management, etc.

From this point of view, we have an opportunity not only to evaluate the students’ achievement, but the achievement of the teacher and school too to build and develop school community to become a learner community—perhaps this is a rather substantial meaning of education. So, we can ask: how the teachers respond the pragmatic phenomenon of the students? What are their comments? What are their reactions? What about cheating? If the exam is not only for the students, maybe it is fair if we also make questions: how the teachers prepared the test questions? How serious they are?

When I am writing this essay, I remember a captivating article in Kompas (29/4/2008) last year criticizing the statement Minister of National Education that National Exam is a test of honesty for both teachers and students. Denni B Saragih, the writer, disclosed the moral assumption of the Minister that the examiner felt to have moral superiority in this matter to examine the exam, the teachers, and the students. However, we know that National Exam is so controversial because it also related to the policy of national education in Indonesia. To be honest, many authorities on education in Indonesia argued that the National Exam policy is not fair because it assume that the quality of education all around Indonesia is equal—and the fact reveals something different. Hence, does the Minister base the policy on a fair and honest foundation?

Back to the topic, I think, we as a teacher or anything in this exam need to be honest about it. Yesterday I heard about a teacher provided the test questions just in the morning before the test to the school administration. Or a teacher just gave the handbook, marking some items of the evaluation test in several chapters, and let the administration staff to type the test questions. Moreover, someone told me yesterday that the local authority of education in religious affairs obligates the schools to use the test questions they made—and, of course, the schools have to pay for them.

Anything about the exam—the pragmatic attitude, cheating, unpreparedness of the teacher to make the questions, etc—is the face of our contemporary education. To some extent, it is also a reflection of our moral education, in the hidden curriculum of the school, whether it is successful or failed. And the true answer stays within.

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Sabtu, 03 Januari 2009

Between Two New Years

This week we celebrate two new years: Hijri on Monday and Gregorian on Thursday. Like usual, I received some short messages and email containing words of celebration, greeting, or prayer. The words could be: “We hope that things would be better in the new year”—or something like that. Some of them tried to be philosophical. “Yesterday is history, now is reality, and tomorrow is mystery,” one of my friends said yesterday on his short message.

Most of us have much hope that new year will give us a good momentum to be better. New Year is almost identical to new spirit, new life, or new future. But, regrettably, the celebration of new year tends to be a cliché. It becomes somewhat of a ritual. The notion of new spirit appears as an overused idea.

Actually, I never had a special impression relating to celebrating new year, especially Gregorian year. Moreover, Gregorian year has no historical context to amplify its spirit of change to me—or maybe I don’t know. The focus of new year party is only when the clock of new year ticks on at the midnight. So, the celebration of new Gregorian year nearly doesn’t affect me at all.

Meanwhile, although Hijri year has a strong revolutionary historical background, it seems to me that the pursuit of new spirit has to fight against cliché. The searching of new spirit has to become a personal or maybe existential battle. It means that the general context of historical background should be brought into my actual everyday life.

But the essential problem, in fact, is about the cliché. Such explanations above just become a cliché too. We often hear something like this, so it’s no longer interesting and effective.

Between two celebrations, the searching of new spirit still continues.

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