The history of Solo is closely entwined with the history of the Surakarta Sultanate, which followed the Mataram Sultanate. Solo is well-known as a centre of ancient Javanese culture because it has traditionally served as a political hub and centre for development of Javanese traditions.
This history and tradition have given birth to a refined culture, which has shaped the unique character of the local community. Visually, many expressions of Solo culture can be seen in historical tourist destinations. Meanwhile, cultural activities are expressed through various art forms – music, shadow puppet shows and other displays. Economically, Solo’s uniqueness is on display in its traditional markets, fashion, batik, sculptures and so forth. While in terms of community life, various traditional values have developed and become unique behaviours, traditions, sayings, norms and characteristics of Solo society. These refined traditional values should be studied and passed on to younger generations so that the unique identity or character of Solo youth can exist alongside the unique identities of youth in other regions.
Traditional expressions, which are part of broader folklore, help shine light on refined values in society. According to Danandjaja (1984:17), the study of this folklore is important as it reveals the conscious and sub-conscious thoughts of the people. Folklore also preserves what the people believe to be important (at a certain point in time). Carvantes defines traditional expressions as short phrases which are distilled from deep experience. Meanwhile, Bertrand Russel refers to it as the wisdom of many and the wit of one. Based on these views, Brunvand (Danandjaja, 1984:28) states that traditional expressions have at least three essential features, namely they must:
- be a sentence, a traditional expression is not based on just one word;
- have a standardised form;
- have roots in spoken tradition which differentiates them from (mere) clichés, poetry, news and so forth.
According to Bascom (Danandjaja, 1984:19), these instantly recognisable expressions represent a form of collective wisdom which, besides reflecting collective notions, also function as tools which educate, enforce and ensure that the collective community adheres to them.
In this regard, traditional Javanese expressions, according to Suprayitna (1986:44), though not as prevalent as they used to be, nonetheless represent an institutionalised spiritual legacy for Javanese people. Javanese expressions can be placed into three separate categories: proverbs, sayings and parables. But in everyday terms, all are referred to as proverbs.
Based on the opinions outlined above, traditional Javanese expressions can be understood as proverbs that serve as a form of local wisdom for Javanese society – a legacy which can be used as a reference point for personal behaviour and social control.
Traditional expressions are often thought to become irrelevant with the passing of time. This is despite the fact that as a source of local wisdom, these expressions should be understood in a positive manner.
There are many traditional expressions in Javanese culture which contain positive values and which should be passed on to younger generations, so that they can become part of the identity and unique nature of Solo youth. In general terms, there are several values that can be referred to as the ‘Hasthalaku Solo’ (Eight Values) of Javanese society, namely: Gotong Royong (mutual assistance), Grapyak Semanak (friendliness), Guyub Rukun (harmony), Lembah Manah (humility), Ewuh Pekewuh (mutual respect), Pangerten (mutual appreciation), Andhop Asor (nobility) and Tepa Slira (tolerance).
Gotong Royong (mutual assistance)
Gotong Royong originates from the Javanese language, where gotong means ‘to lift’ or ‘take on a burden’, while royong means ‘together’. According to the Indonesian National Dictionary, gotong royong means working together in a mutual fashion, helping one another. In English, it is called mutual assistance.
Gotong Royong is also an Indonesian term that has served as the basis for our nation-building spirit. Through his revolutionary speeches, President Soekarno explained that the meaning of gotong royong was to put our bodies on the line together, sweat together and strive to help one another. The spirit of gotong royong can be seen most clearly in the third and fourth principles of our national ideology of Pancasila.
Gotong royong accords with Aristotles’ understanding of human beings as social creatures who are unable to live alone and who assistance from other human beings. The interactions which take place between human beings include those which cover this concept of mutual assistance.
Gotong royong is rarely used to convey the idea of cooperation – where other terms such as ‘sharing’ are more common. This is despite the fact that cooperation is a form of gotong royong, such that the concept has a timeless quality. Fundraising to help victims of natural disasters, for example, is a modern form of gotong royong. The value of gotong royong in Indonesian culture is as a form of social solidarity. As an example, tidying up villages, volunteer work and cultural events are long-standing expressions of gotong royong. In fact, this has become a part of the national character, passed on from generation to generation, with deep educational value.
Koentjaraningrat divided gotong royong into two types: helping one another and volunteer work. Activities in the first category include farming, household work, communal celebrations or festivals and disaster response. The second category usually involves people working on something for the public good – such as tidying up a village.
Gotong royong can’t be undertaken if society itself has no sense of empathy or care – it needs to be nurtured and protected as a national value, even as times rapidly change. Gotong royong exists within Pancasila, which itself contains values of humanitarianism, unity, deliberation and social justice.
Gotong royong has been a central part of Indonesian history, as the majority of our people were farmers and often had to involve many of their relatives or neighbours in planting and harvesting rice. In several areas of Java, for example, local residents use the word sambatan – which means to ask for help involving lots of people – to describe the assistance provided to someone holding a celebration. Ferdinand Tonnies referred to gotong royong as gemeinschaft because the community collectively and voluntarily undertakes an activity for a shared purpose, even though nowadays many instances of this are not voluntary.
Grapyak Semanak (friendliness)
According to Baosastra Djawa by Poerwodarminto, grapyak means to welcome and semanak means warm or friendly (1939: 162, 351). Grapyak semanak reflects the second principle of Pancasila, namely Just and Civilised Humanitarianism. Grapyak semanak takes its form in the custom of greeting an acquaintance and in being friendly in interactions with others, such as smiling, showing respect when communicating and providing assistance without seeking anything in return.
Grapyak semanak can enable people who have just met to feel at ease and familiar with one another and break down fatigue, stiffness and awkward silences in conversation. Javanese tend to be very social – gathering in groups and making friends easily. They socialise with others to make life more comfortable. As a result, they always try to seek out more friends or acquaintances and maintain their relationships by fostering grapyak semanak within themselves.
People who hold to traditions and those who contain a strong sense of morality, principled civility and aim to respect others as they would themselves. Greeting others is needed in order to maintain good and close relations with others. This is in accordance with the Javanese character, who are well known for embodying grapyak semanak. As a result, Javanese should ensure they always greet others, even if they have only just met or don’t know one another. This will foster a sense of closeness, friendliness and familiarity between people.
Greeting others, besides serving as a means to maintain close relations with others, can also help maintain harmonious relations. Mangga is a simple expression which Javanese use when they meet with acquaintances on a daily basis. Mangga is not just a pleasantry on its own, but is usually accompanied by smiling, nodding one’s head and stopping for a moment while directing one’s attention to the other person. Using mangga in this way differs from its literal meaning – which is to invite someone to join you. Besides mangga, Javanese also often ask ‘where are you going’ when they see someone is traveling somewhere, as another form of greeting. Once again, the point of this greeting is to show closeness to someone, not necessarily to find out to where they are traveling.
The Javanese habit of asking for ‘permission’ when meeting a new acquaintance is usually followed by asking where they are from. If the acquaintance also has a warm disposition and can speak Javanese, conversation will flow freely. Still, Javanese often choose their words carefully when communicating, so that they do not offend others.
Guyub Rukun (harmony)
Guyub means to gather, while rukun means harmony and life without conflict and disputes. When these two terms are joined together, guyub rukun means a peaceful state of affairs, with people collectively nurturing a life of harmony and without disputes. Suseno outlines Guyub rukun in Java, explaining that rukun refers to a condition of conformity, peace, cooperation, mutual assistance and acceptance in a calm and agreeable environment.
Rukun is the ideal state of affairs in society. Javanese society holds the belief that social harmony is the natural state of affairs and that this must be protected. Lexically, rukun accords most closely with ‘harmony’ in English, which is often associated with inter-religious harmony.
Guyub rukun shares much in common with Pancasila. Piety and faith in the One God, as stated in the first principle of Pancasila, will discourage someone from taking radical and intolerant actions which could damage harmony. Upholding the second principle of just and civilised humanitarianism will encourage someone to act justly, respect other regardless of their background and act more humanely in everyday life. Similarly, the third principle encourages people to maintain harmony in order to protect unity and not force their ideas on others. Meanwhile the fourth principle outlines the importance of ensuring harmony not just between individual citizens, but also between citizens and the state – with people respecting and undertaking their role as citizens and supporting the positive programs of the state in the interests of the public good. The fifth principle outlines that as part of holding a just and civilised attitude, an individual in a pluralistic society should not only support their own group but also respect the decisions and differences of other groups by living in harmony and not seeking out faults with each other.
In Javanese culture there is a saying, ‘rukun agawe Sentosa, crah agawe bubrah’, which means that harmony will create peace and prosperity, while disputes will led to divisions and disharmony. Guyub rukun is understood as an ideal state of affairs, where society lives in harmony, not because everyone is the same but because they are able to harmonise differences and diversity in any given situation in order to achieve a common goal. Guyub rukun will only be achieved if the entire community safeguards stability and harmony.
Harmony means living in a good and peaceful situation, not fighting with one another but reaching a shared agreement between different ethnicities, races and religions. The government has long seen harmony as a key element in maintaining political and economic stability, due to Indonesian society’s diverse nature. According to former Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister A Mukti Ali (1971-1978), religious harmony is a social condition where all religious groups can coexist without harming the basic right of each to practice their own faith. According to the current Religious Affairs Minister, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, every religious community – regardless of whether they are recognised by the state or not – has the right to protection by the state, because what is most important is how the state fulfils civil rights and protects all religious communities.
Lembah manah (humility)
Lembah manah represents an attitude of humility before others, reflecting the second principle of Pancasila. One who embodies lembah manah positions themselves as the equal of others – no more intelligent, skillful or better than others – and does not take excessive pride in the position they hold in society, such that they can respect others and do not belittle them.
Someone who embodies lembah manah or humility sees others as creations of God who each have their own special and unique nature, such that they can feel the importance of others in their life. For these people, differences should be respected. Humility here does not mean lowering or closing off oneself from others – instead, it means being able to listen, share and empathise with others, leading to the emergence of a harmonious relationship. Each human being is created different by God, so each person should respect and appreciate that, humbly. Lembah manah has begun to disappear nowadays, people prioritise themselves without looking out for the interests of others. Every person should have a lembah manah attitude, so that they can socialise with those around them.
Lembah manah is an attitude which should be developed in our families, society and state. If lembah manah is upheld in our everyday lives, this will provide great benefits for ourselves and others. One who has lembah manah will have many friends, because they can appreciate others. Others will see that those who have lembah manah will have a positive impact on their friendship. Besides that, others will also be more sympathetic and respectful. This is because someone who has lembah manah never takes excessive pride in the advantages they have because an arrogant attitude is frowned upon by others. Lembah manah can also bring peace and tranquillity to one’s soul, because they do not boast about what they have.
Ewuh Pakewuh (mutual respect)
Geertz (1961) states that ewuh pakewuh is linked to the civil behaviour of a person. An indicator of the civility of Javanese people is that they do not refuse a request by saying “no”. Tobing (2010) states that ewuh pakewuh can emerge as a result of an individual knowing the kindness of someone else, or frequently being a beneficiary of it, such that they are unable to refuse or ignore a request from the other person. Ewuh pakewuh often takes place between younger people with their elders. Soearjono (2011) defines ewuh pakewuh as a respectful sense of deference. According to Tobin (2010), ewuh pakeswuh in the Javanese values system consists of several principles which are closely linked to other key values, namely the principles of harmony and respect.
In Harry (2013), bureaucracies are also described as having a more negative form of ewuh pakewuh culture, particularly through lower-level officials showing deference by not expressing opinions which may contradict their seniors, in order to avoid conflict and maintain good relations with those senior officials, who are seen as having a higher social status. Changing this culture will only be possible if senior officials are willing to implement a more egalitarian work culture (Himawan, 2005; Jufri, 2006; Kurniawan, 2007; Herliany, 2008; Enceng, 2008; Gaffar, 2008; Febrianda, 2009).
Pangerten (mutual appreciation)
In Javanese culture, pangerten is the main key to social life. Pangerten means ‘to show understanding’, or to be aware of the situation of those around you, and is an inseparable part of our ability to function as human beings.
Human beings are created by God with various differences. Every member of this diverse society needs to be able to live alongside others who are different from them. Differences in society should be seen as a blessing from God, which should be praised. Differences in ourselves or others can be utilised to improve ourselves. This can only happen if every human being appreciates others.
Emory Bogardus (1989) states that an attitude is a tendency to act towards or against some environmental factor. Etymologically speaking, to ‘appreciate’ something means to value, respect, care for or view it as important (beneficial, useful). Appreciating others means appreciating and caring for your rights and those of others. It can be concluded that appreciating others is the tendency of a person to act in respecting or seeing the importance of others.
It becomes important, then, to live a life filled with tolerance amidst diversity, as well as be willing to listen and receive the views of others and consider them carefully. Whenever someone else’s opinion is more appropriate, correct or fundamental, while our views are not, then we should acknowledge that and openly accept it, especially if the opinion is supporter by strong facts and evidence, such that there is no reason for us to reject their argument. Here, we need to have the willingness to accept the views of others. Pangerten differs from tepa slira and ewuh pakewuh. Although the concepts are similar, pangerten has a more grounded and honest character, where one does not expect reciprocity.
Andhap asor (nobility)
It is rare to find mention of andhap asor in lessons at school nowadays. Even where it does exist, it is usually only discussed in brief or only as a formality for the purposes of grades. True andhap asor represents an important part of efforts to preserve our noble national culture, namely through the formation of positive and wise morality, behaviour, temperament, character and ethics, based on integrating good an praiseworthy thoughts and feelings and steering oneself away from reprehensible and bad behaviour. Andhap asor is important for us an future generations so that we can uphold the noble cultures and traditions of our nation and maintain a positive shared environment. If everyone is aware and wants to understand and practice good values and nobility in their everyday lives in a correct and appropriate manner, children will imitate this behaviour and there will no longer be a moral crisis in our country. Of course, saying and doing are two very different things. Human beings are social creatures and must interact with their surrounding environment in a positive manner. Andhap asor is needed so that a person can be of benefit to themselves and those around them. Those who embody andhap asor speak well and politely with others. When speaking to others, they must emphasise good behaviour, speak in a proper tone and with appropriate language. Of course, this must also be adjusted to suit the situation and the person to whom one is speaking.
Andhap asor can also be seen when a person is honest and trustworthy. Being honest isn’t easy because sometimes there will be people who do not like honesty. Honesty can generate trust, such that future conflict can be avoided and harmony maintained.
Actually, lembah manah and andhap asor convey a similar sense of humility. Both are included in this list of values as a way of emphasising the importance of a humble attitude for Javanese. The humility of Javanese people is reflected in their attitude and speech. Attitude, in this instance, is related to polite behaviour, while speech is related to using appropriate language. A leader becomes a spokesperson for their group. But such a leader must also be able to feel and explain the needs of their group to those outside the group, particularly regarding the group’s position, its hopes, goals and concerns. In order to become a spokesperson for the group, one must be able to effectively and appropriately pinpoint the needs of their group.
Tepa Selira (tolerance)
For Javanese people, the appropriateness of every attitude conveyed to and for others is first measured based on how it would be received if it was directed at the person conveying it. Javanese people understand this concept through the traditional expression tepa selira.
Tepa selira is part of the concept of rasa in Javanese life. According to Mulder (1996:23), rasa can be described as an inner feeling or intuition. Rasa can mean taste and feeling, but it can also mean the essence or fundamental characteristic of something. Something which falls into the category of rasa extends beyond just rational thought – instead, it is related more closely to one’s heart. The word meaning ‘to think’ in Javanese – sometimes in the form of penggalih or manah – often places greater emphasis on feelings alongside rational thought.
Thus, tepa selira represents the result of one using rational thought and feelings to understand something or someone. Here it should be emphasised that the Javanese concept of tepa selira differs from the Indonesian concept of mawas diri – with the former having more of a social function, focusing on the impact on others, while the latter focuses more on the impacts on oneself. An attitude which results from actions based on tepa selira will be primarily received and felt by others.
Through this concept of tepa selira, an individual will feel everything that happens to others as though it is happening to them. As a result, a person will attempt to understand how they would feel if the negative labels attached to someone else were attached to themselves. This concept is a key foundation in developing tolerance. The concept of tepa selira is sometimes expressed in sayings which imagine scenarios where the individual becomes the victim, for example “yen dijiwit iku krasa lara ya aja njiwit liyan” (if being pinched hurts, then don’t pinch others).
By: M Farid Sunarto