The Javanese are stupid hypocritical liars, among other things, as Javanese culture comes in for some stinging criticism.
A seminar held by Suara Merdeka newspaper in Semarang, Central Java, with the title "Jawa dalam Kritik", saw four analysts, Abdul Munir Mulkhan, Mohamad Sobary, Sutanto Mendut, and Suwardi Endraswara, give traditional Javanese culture a good belting.
Suwardi Endraswara got the ball rolling by describing Javanese people as jelek, no good. According to him the Javanese were stupid, deceptive, hypocritical, stubborn, vengeful, and spiteful, among other unlovely traits. As an example of all these faults rolled into one he cited a Javanese phrase that was often spoken by former president Suharto, mikul dhuwur mendhem jero, which means that one must always respect one's elders and keep the knowledge of their faults to oneself. The effect of this attitude in practice, he said, was that the faults, stupidities, and crimes of one's elders, and leaders, were kept in the dark and could not be spoken about, out of respect.
The hypocrisy of the Javanese could further be seen not only in their words. They speak well, they claim to uphold good moral values, but their actions reveal their hypocrisy, particularly in the area of carrying on hidden adulterous affairs.
Mohamad Sobary said that the movement of Javanese into cities had not gone well. Life in an urban environment was a struggle for survival and those who failed often took a perverse pleasure in their own failure. Sobary went on to say that Javanese culture was in a terrible crisis and needed to be saved.
Meanwhile Abdul Munir Mulkhan spoke of the irony that today, while many foreigners came to Java to study the culture, Javanese people themselves were losing their identity and couldn't even read and write in their own language.
Tanto Mendut said that Java was not really a place anymore, it was extra-territorial, an idea. That's why he hadn't minded handing over a collection of keris swords and gamelan instruments to a professor in Poland. He then complained that the Javanese were anti-egalitarian and lived unnaturally, not based on true feelings, not from the soul.
Those who responded to these harsh criticisms said the speakers were being too one-sided, Javanese culture also had positive qualities. One unique feature of Javanese civilisation, said one, was its spirituality.