In this article, I would like to share some cultural activity in our village. So let us go back a few months, when it was still early January, when we could find New Year festivity every day in the first week. It is a kind of festivity where most residents of both Sawinggrai and Kapsawar Villages are gathered and march together to visit every house accompanied with several teenagers and adults playing the drums, while every house they visit has to prepare some snacks and beverages for people who visit their house. Both are social customs to bid farewell for the past, and at the same time wish a happy new year. This event is meant to help strengthen their bond between each other as a family and a community and goes on non-stop for a whole week. At the end of the week, every village has to prepare a banquet of food and beverages for the other village.
This is a very fascinating and unique experience for me to see and feel up close, to be able to get to know your neighbors and all the people who live around you as it is not something you normally have in Jakarta. I can clearly feel the pride the community takes in this festivity. It also helps many teenagers in their adolescence to gain a sense of pride, and identity they can be proud of by discovering how they can contribute and have a role in society, having an identity as a community. In addition, it also serves as a mental development when the younger inhabitants could do what the adults are usually good at.
In some way, I can see how Emile Durkheim’s Theory in Functionalism works. He stated that all elements of the society are interdependent and they serve a function for the overall stability of the society.
It will not only bring benefit in the social and psychosocial development of the children, and how they pass on the traditions, routines, and knowledge (how to make the drums and cook a certain kind of food to celebrate the event) but also as a social cohesion. It could potentially also work as a cultural tourism if they manage to develop the festival by adding more cultural ritual to the festival, and learn to promote it. Moreover, I always think the festival is needed in every community to reduce the stress level because it is fun to attend. It shows that the elements of a society are needed to generate harmony and stability. Just like a school festival in every school, or passing of age rituals in many communities, we can find many kinds at festivals in every part of the world, which more or less have the same benefit for its people.
Because the social benefits are intangible things, like the connection between people, people in big cities often forget their importance, even though they have been happening in human culture for centuries. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why more and more people feeling disconnected from their society and craving for a connection in other places, such as in romantic relationships when they actually don’t really need one.
While I generally think festivals are good for the residents of a village, it doesn’t mean all aspects good. Take eating sea turtles for example. They think eating sea turtles is part of the culture when celebrating something, when they already know that sea turtle is categorized as an endangered species. Even though the children are beginning to understand the importance of protecting sea turtles, it’s always hard to re-value the norms in many adults in Sawinggrai and Kapisawar.
Another example is the fact in those festivals, many people usually ended up getting drunk. While they seem to unable to handle alcohol, they tend to drink excessively and often fight with each other when they are drunk. Probably because many people here are not used to discussing their problems, being drunk brings up repressed emotions. Arguments often end with the punch in the face. Not to mention the fact that many adults are encouraging their underage children to drink excessively, without realizing the risk that children get their values of good and bad from their parents and adults around them. Even worse, they don’t know how much damage the heavy alcohol can bring to an adolescent brain.
It’s already hard enough to change the norms and values of children, but it’s even harder when the adults are discouraging them from adopting the new norms and values they learn at school. The educators here are trying their best to remind the children about the consequences of excessive drink and eating the sea turtle, and it’s unquestionable the children sometimes feel conflicted between their educators’ values and the ones from their surroundings. Then again, it’s all about how persistent the educators make them question themselves, about how their actions will affect the environment and eventually themselves as well.
Are festival necessary? Knowing all the money they spend, perhaps my answer would be no. I consider it a waste of money and having a negative effect on the children too. On the other hand, I still think they also have many benefits too. But there are things they should re-evaluate and maybe change. In fact, I believe that every culture in every community need to re-evaluate according to the conditions of their surroundings.
Forgive me for not talking about my current situation just yet. But I would very much like to describe every experience right away so you don’t miss out on all the little details I see and feel. What do you guys think? Are culture and norms something we must accept from the older generation or is there a need to re-evaluate them every now and then?