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The “International” Syndrome: Indonesia and Globalization

“Hey dude, are you going to that seminar held by the university?”
“Nah, I guess I’ll pass. Sounds boring,”
“But dude, it’s an international seminar! And we’ll get a certificate too!”
-Random conversation overheard while strolling around campus

I, as an Indonesian, am so curious on the “international” syndrome that runs within our society. Everywhere I go, there’s always something, be it an event or a place, with the word “international” in it. I go to an “international”-standard university, but it’s just like your normal community college. I’ve attended some “international” seminars, but they’re just like normal seminars. There are many kinds of “international” here and there, and to some point, I’ve grown weary. Why is it that Indonesians are so obsessed with this particular word? Is it because this word defines prestige? Or is it another reason? Or maybe we’re just a bunch of xenophiles?

I’ll have to admit, in Indonesia, sometimes prestige is what the people want. People want to ascend the social hierarchy at a blazing speed. Why? Again, studying sociology is similar to studying international relations. Power. Morgenthau said that within each human there is an animus dominandi, or the will to dominate. With a higher social rank comes more power to an individual. A person can enjoy the luxury of driving a Camry and dining at five-star hotels. A person can also acquire connections to further increase their power. People want to be known, as according to the topmost need in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. How do people acquire prestige? Easy. Prepare a truckload of cash and go “international”.

Indonesia has been struck by the globalization wave since God knows when. Blackberries, iPhones, tablets; they’re everywhere and mostly everyone has at least one. Burger King, McDonalds, KFC; you’ll see them packed during weekends, filled with people stuffing their guts with factory-processed junk food. Why? Because the label “international”.
Indonesians are, to some extent, xenophiles. We absolutely adore any foreign objects that look cool. We join the train of globalization, which is actually a cover-up phrase for “Americanization”. Globalization is just the US strategy to maintain their hegemonic status. And it works, because we’re more concerned about our prestige in society. Going to “international” schools, eating at “international” restaurants, having “international” gadgets. Even the fact that we use English is a sign of the success of globalization.

By using “internationally recognized” things, Indonesians feel that they are one step closer to becoming “Americans”. This is mainly due to the image spread by the media and US pop culture. Americans are strong, wealthy, and influential, thanks to TV dramas and games. By being “international”, Indonesians feel that they have achieved something, because it’s all about prestige. We drool at something foreign and forsake our own treasures. The worst-case scenario is the utter loss of our own culture.

I’m not saying that it’s bad to be “international”, but we have to realize that not every “international” thing is good. Next we’ll be accepting “international” people as our President. And then we’ll be led by “international” government. So, please, it’s great to have “international” seminars, but please make it a REAL “international” seminar, not just a normal seminar with normal people as speakers. Also, just because a foreigner’s the speaker doesn’t make it actually “international”. Have an awesome day and stay awesome!