Lesson #3: “Sometimes I am worried that I’m not Indonesian enough to deserve living in Indonesia”
Right after arriving in Banda, I chatted with Pak Dipi, one of the owners of The Nutmeg Tree (TNT) dive centre. We shared a similar passion about Jogja, his then hometown, now mine. What we loved, or used to love, about the city: its tolerance.
He shared how his neighbors with different backgrounds lived next to one another. Greeted one another during religious festivals. Not worried about how they practiced religious rituals would be hastily judged by others.
He left Jogja just when labels such as ‘Nationalists’ – referring to a neighborhood where neighbors didn’t know one another – or ‘Religious’ – referring to a neighborhood where neighbors are expected to do, look, and even call each other the same – were sprouting in property ads.
He worried about the uprising extremities in Jogja. He admitted, it was one of his biggest reasons to slowly leave the city.
Living in Banda for almost ten years, he felt a similar difference.
As a citizen, what is more important than being a Nationalist?
Pak Dipi knew how tolerance was the label given by externals to this archipelago. But he was worried that, as any external motivations, the label would be superficial. The label was enforced for reasons other than itself.
And sometimes, he felt that.
When I showed him what I wrote ten years ago, we instantly shared our similar understanding of tolerance.
“People sometimes forgot that their ID card, wherever they are, shows their citizenship; the country they live in. Not their racial, ethnicities. Or religious background,” he said. “Have we paid our tribute as a citizen?”
I was struck silent.
I thought by visiting Banda and learning how it shaped Indonesia was enough to test my Indonesian-ness. I realized it was all nothing but superficial.
When I shared about what I did for work, Pak Dipi raised an idea, “If employees are onboarded how to be professionals, why are they not onboarded to be tolerant and work with diversity?”
“Work WITH diversity?” I emphasized the word while asking for his clarification.
Operationalizing diversity and tolerance at work
We were then spending my first afternoon in Banda Naira cross-pollinating ideas about how difference is encouraged in critical thinking, diversity as an entry to collective systemic thinking, and tolerance is about genuine curiosity and entry to empathy.
No, we were not talking about tolerance where people simply say “your religion is yours, and I’m fine as long as you don’t bother me.”
Or, to be brutally honest, we didn’t talk about tolerance sitting on top of ignorance.
We also talked about how one would understand the others’ pains of doing their ritual and the gains they expect from doing it.
Finally, we talked about how each one of us would learn the personal meaning behind what others doing with their rituals (emphasize on personal).
And we didn’t forget to talk about how our hopes and fears related to living with our religion shape our work and business decisions.
And we kept on snowballing our thoughts and decided that it was time to put tolerance on the business landscape.
It is not only good for individuals but also good for the organization.
We agree on one thing: it is time not to worry about tolerance and not to cover ignorance with permissiveness. Instead, it is time to start to actually talk about it. And make the best use of it.