The elections are over. The “election machinery” and “advertising industry” have been very effective. Those familiar with the psychology of advertising, medical neurology, and with Nobel laureate Ivan Pavlov’s (1849-1936) theory of conditioned/involuntary reflex actions know how well our seasoned players have played their cards. Anyway, the people of Indonesia have passed their verdict.
And now we have a “democratically” elected president and vice president, leaving us with two pairs not elected to the office.
Yet they all are leaders, as long as the spirit of leadership within them is alive and they are willing to serve.
A president, along with their team, leads the state. On the other hand, those not elected are not in the position to lead the state, but they can still serve the nation.
One of the candidates said he would pulang kampung (return to his hometown). Fine, but that is not the end. Without any post, he can still serve his countrymen and women.
A true leader never dies. He serves in life, to become an inspiration after his death.
Such “spirit of leadership” is referred to as semangat satria – the capacity, capability and, most importantly, willingness to serve.
Our ancients formulated an “Eightfold Code of Conduct”, to be observed by all leaders-cum-servants. They are likened to eight petals of a lotus, all of them beautiful and equally important.
The first petal, Sun, advises us to learn the lesson of loving, caring and sharing without discrimination. Sun does not favor anyone in particular. It is the primary source of energy for all life forms, yet it does not expect anything in return.
For leaders serving the state, there is an additional lesson to learn: while collecting taxes and other revenues, imitate the way the sun absorbs water from the oceans. The process is smooth.
The oceans are not diminished; so too the people must not feel overburdened by taxation.
What is more important is that the sun recycles that water and returns it in the form of rain for the benefit of all.
The charg* d’affaires of the state must ascertain that monies collected from people are wisely spent for their benefit and general well-being, not to profit a handful only.
The lesson to learn here is one of nondiscrimination and justice for all.
The second petal, Moon, shines in the dark. In spite of crisis, conflicts, tension and stress, a leader must still shine and serve the people. Continuous service is the key expression here.
Star, the third petal, guides the lost. Our leaders must distance themselves from non-legally binding opinions of institutions and individuals who find it right to pronounce some people deviant and punish them, rather than guide them.
A leader is likened to a pole star. Pole stars are relied upon as dependable indicator for direction, and to determine latitude and longitude.
Reliability is the keyword here. In order to be reliable, a leader must first rely on their intelligence and intuition, rather than on ignorant individuals, institutions and their opinions.
Even when it comes to seeking the advice of the wise, do so by all means, yet decide on your own.
The fourth petal, Fire, is a call to burn our ego, arrogance, vanity, pride, selfishness, prejudices and all other negative traits. The key words here are humility and simplicity.
The fifth petal is Wind – soft, smooth, subtle, unseen, and yet forceful and everywhere. Nothing can ever come in the way of its penetration.
A leader should be able to move freely and not be overtly protected by the people around them. They should be sensitive to the real conditions and needs of their people, and not dependent upon “supplied information”.
Reaching out to people is the key concept here.Earth is the sixth petal. In spite of our abuse and exploitation, Mother Earth is ever giving and forgiving. These are the key words.
As a public servant, a leader must accept all kinds of criticism. They should not develop prejudice against those who criticize them. Summoning or taking legal action is not a good habit.
Water, the seventh petal, reminds us of constant flow, sharing life with one and all. When its flow is hindered by a rock, it changes its course and flows on.
Keywords: fluid, and yet firm.
Last but not least, the eighth petal, Ocean, symbolizes vastness and the ability to absorb dirty water, cleanse it and prepare it for the journey ahead, to evaporate and return as life-giving rainwater.
A leader must be oceanic, vast in knowledge, a booklover and reader, just like our founding fathers, particularly Sukarno and Hatta. They all were very good readers. Interestingly, BOOK may stand for Broad Ocean of Knowledge.
Wisdom, born of such oceanic knowledge, develops the ability to recycle the bad, unworthy and useless, and transform it into the good, worthy and useful.
Keywords: ability to recycle, transform and reform.
While congratulating President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his running mate Boediono, I recall what The Jakarta Post’s chief editor Endy Bayuni said recently on a television show.
Lanjutkan, or continue, was good as the campaign slogan, but it should not mean the continuation of all and everything. There are things that must undergo change and transformation. There have been flaws in the past, and policies that must be corrected.
This second and final term in office gives you, Mr. President, a rare opportunity to go down in history as a true statesman, and not only as a twice “democratically” elected president of the country.
Let’s do things better. The people of this nation are with you. I agree with what you often repeat, that we need clarity of thought and heart. Along with that, we also need the strength and courage to take bold and decisive actions.
What is most important is to hold the country as one unit. One language, one country, one nation and one set of laws, common laws for all. Let us get rid of all bylaws and regional regulations that are not in line with our national consensus, culture and the lofty ideal of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, Unity in Diversity.
Someone who knows you personally once said, “I was in Washington, D.C., some time ago, and people there were all praises for him.” Why only Washington? We need the whole world to praise you for your achievements.
At the same time, Excellency, let us not be deluded by such words of praise. You may recall, Sir, how our Pak Harto was praised for his achievements until months before our economic downfall, leading to political, social and other crises.
It shall do well if we also pay attention to reports such as that prepared by senior journalist John Pilger, or the former economic hitman John Perkins.
Mr. President, you, along with Pak Boediono will once again be leading one of the richest countries in the world, and not just a country with the largest Muslim population. I look forward to seeing you as the Leader of the Nation, to lead our nation to its destined glory and majesty!
The writer is spiritual activist, author of more than 120 books in Indonesian and English.
Anand Krishna , Jakarta | Thu, 07/16/2009 12:44 PM | Opinion