July is the time to think about independence. It’s Indonesia’s national day on 17 August but July marks the USA’s Independence Day on 4 July, which is a date that resonates with many communities around the world and symbolizes the beginning of the end for colonialism. It is interesting to reflect on that.
The British were colonial ‘masters’ of half the world at the height of the British Empire, with strong influence across India, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Pakistan, huge chunks of Africa and the Caribbean, an astonishing list of ‘dependencies’ and, as many forget, the American colonies as well!
But it was that very spirit of independence inherited from the British that drove the American colonists to declare Independence in 1776 and to create what went on to be the world’s greatest ever superpower, without really becoming colonists themselves… well maybe a bit too (the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, etc.).
Independence means having to create your own constitution, decide what code of conduct and ethics to live by, what laws to write, what kind of government to have and what kind of society. And America did that initially very well with a masterful constitution (marred only by the ‘right to bear arms’, which in my personal opinion is a long outdated ‘right’), a devolved system of government to the state level and a very active democracy which allowed them to have Barack Obama and Donald Trump as back–to-back presidents. A truly democratic, if hard to understand, scenario!
But it is perhaps in the legal system that the British left the best legacy, with most commonwealth countries enjoying justice systems that the people really believe in, while others, including USA and Indonesia, struggle with their respective systems. America became the most litigious country in the world, again in my personal opinion, restricting rather than enhancing freedom, and Indonesia, well, shall we say the challenges have not yet been ironed out! Let us pray both find their balance.
But independence combined with real democracy does allow the people to change their leaders and ask them to change their systems, and this has happened with great results both in USA and Indonesia and will continue to happen as the leaders are judged by the people and eventually succumb to their will.
Happy Independence Day to the USA, and looking forward to Indonesia’s next month, and all that it stands for.