Time chooses a great man for its period. The year 1908 had Soetomo as its great man. In a special way, the founder of Boedi Oetomo was a suitable choice for the 20 may 1908 National Awakening Movement. He was a suitable person with no political passion since we were in the midst of serious thought but no intention of large scale shifts of power.
But is true that what happened on that famous day in 1908 wasn’t agitation?Soetomo was 19. He and some of his friends established something that had never existed before; an organization for natives. They fought for a national community, with no distinctions of race, gender and belief. In short, a completely modern nationalism – and ideal that persist to this very day.
This wasn’t a revolution; on the contrary it was an ‘evolution on the march’ as newspapers at that time said. The movement in 1908 was not ready with any alternatives to position of the country as a colony, because they would need time. Of course it wasn’t an easy thing; even a revolutionary, a person like Marx, knows this. The lost tradition of all generations became a weight in minds of next generation, like a nightmare.
For Soetomo, tradition wasn’t a frightening therefore he wasn’t one for destruction. As in Javanese proverb which interpreted as a man’s descendants will never abandon his qualities. It’s not surprising that during the great cultural debate of 1930’s and 1940s called ‘Cultural Polemic’ when number of Intellectuals debated the direction of the future nation, Soetomo was opposite to other who refused to be a servant of history and Soetomo believe that progress was achieve safely and surely only when we first glance back behind us. In other words, what lies before and what lies behind are not conflict, but are two different things that are in harmony with each other.
Harmony was integral to Soetomo view of point. To him society wasn’t an arena of contest , but more like a gamelan orchestra each people has to fulfill a certain duty that fits in harmoniously with all other players, that follow certain rules and this is done without any feeling of envy or ambition to shoot of gingival contribution.
This image denies the possibility that conflicts of priorities or authority can occur. Soetomo attitude towards the labor movement points out that the tense political conditions from 1924 to 1934 meant that Soetomo had little opportunity to imagine that any great change could happen to the existing power set up. Yet Soetomo didn’t admit this thing, Harmony accord peace—only these were in his thoughts.It’s interesting that this view has always been revived until now, and isn’t halted by the questions; what is it in fact that we should be discussing? Society as it is or society as it should be?