Javanese Culture

Dec 10th, 2006, in IM Posts, by

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.

Another person complained that if one is going to criticise Javanese culture then one should also do the same for Western or Hindu culture. suaramerdeka


33 Comments on “Javanese Culture”

  1. avatar Ucha says:

    Some bad apples exists, and actually some Javanese people nowadays don’t act like what the philosophy says (be honest, be respectful, be ashamed of wrong conducts). I would agree that the essential figures of politics and justice do not think for other people but themselves (again, another non Javanese conduct..do what matters for social welfare).

    Most people don’t see the strength of Indonesia, and Javanese don’t see the strength in them. But if you really go and live in other culture, say Arab or US..we’re not so bad after all. We’re just so focused on what we cannot ever accomplish, which is wrong, because in Javanese we believe that God decides our destiny and that we should always work hard.

    Someone can read a javanese phylosophy and turn it around to see the bad in it, such as mikul ndhuwur mendem jhero. I can give an example : US’s slogan “freedom of speech” leads to how the young generation talks trash to their parents, and has no respect to older people. The example is a bad apple..bad people, while the slogan can actually be interpreted as a good thing.

    And, I want to say that I’m proud that Indonesia (and all the tribes in it including Javanese) still exists as a country consisting of natives (Indonesia = Indians of the Archipelago). Not like other natives which are wiped by foreigners (say our neighbor, Malaysia). And continue to survive through long colonialism, and even the most devastating tsunami in the whole world (didn’t we recall at that time the spirit of gotong royong phylosophy? I’m sure it’s the spirit that exists in other tribes too..but it doesn’t mean that Javanese phylosophy is wrong).

  2. avatar Oigal says:

    Not like other natives which are wiped by foreigners (say our neighbor, Malaysia)

    Last time I looked seemed to plenty of bumiputra around in Malaysia and the nation seemed to doing very well in comparison to Indonesia.

    And continue to survive through long colonialism

    Plenty of folks in the provinces would say nothing much has changed, skin colour does not make an overlord, actions do.

  3. avatar Robert Grant says:

    Javanese culture Theiving and violence is all they know

    No forethought before they act and no leagal conceqce for their actions
    Be they Muslim or Be they christen,

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