Ananda Sukarlan is a well-known figure in classical music and Indonesian society. His vocal thoughts on Indonesian society are laudable and sometimes controversial. His achievements are numerous, starting with a summa cum laude graduation from the Royal Conservatory of Den Haag; being the first Indonesian musician who built a cultural relationship between Portugal and Indonesia; and the winner of several classical music accolades.

Here, he shares with us his thoughts on the role of social media role in Indonesian society, the level of tolerance among Indonesians, and his opinion on what he thinks is the biggest issue facing Indonesia society right now.

Photo: Courtesy of Ananda Sukarlan

How opposed are you to the idea of social media as a positive platform for young people to showcase their talents?

I am 100 per cent for it! It’s just that we should use it wisely, and, like a good performer, always remember that whatever we post is for other people to see/read, and be ready that any of our posts could be retweeted or reposted and become viral.

I have my own five don’ts before posting: 1. Don’t seek approval. 2. Don’t show off or boast or brag. 3. Don’t complain (I break this particular rule a lot, especially if I am feeling mellow watching the sky, but I try to make my complaint poetic!). 4. Don’t be unkind (this includes attacking or sharing private information about someone); and 5. Don’t post anything unnecessary to be read by your followers. Remember, their time is as precious as yours.

What do you think social media has done when it comes to reviving classical music in the modern world?

I wrote an article in 2015 for Indonesia Tatler about this and I wouldn’t change a word of that article, except some of the numbers for some celebrities’ followers and that now Instagram has gained popularity more than Twitter in classical music. In Asia, it certainly has helped bringing classical music to a much wider audience. It has also been proven that classical musicians are not as narrow-minded as we’re were always considered in the past.

Now, people can see that we feed on everything around us to inspire our artistry. Not only that, we interact in the business side of it as well: we are endorsed by certain products (not necessarily related to music) or become ambassadors of a certain cause. Social media can also benefit a community, like what I did today, using social media for socialising and increasing awareness about Asperger’s Syndrome, which I have myself.

Personally speaking, questions and discussions with me on Twitter tend to deal with other issues than music since those issues are more familiar with laymen when connecting to the arts. You want an example? Look, on what issue are you asking me about in this interview? There, you have it, right?

In some recent news articles, you mentioned that social media is related to a low level of tolerance in Indonesia and around the world: can you elaborate more?

Saying that social media is destroying us is like saying that guns are killing us. Of course, it’s the people who pull the trigger, or those who manages the social media. The problem is that the majority of Indonesian society are not educated and prepared enough to use social media. What we post, true or not, can be read by our followers, and people can retweet or repost it without checking its truth.

An example: one could claim that he or she is an expert in Arabic or the Qur’an and post something that propagates fear among the ignorant citizens such as “Don’t vote for a leader of a different religion than yours, otherwise you’d go to hell.” How could you validate it if you don’t know Arabic?

How can we improve social media’s role when it comes to improving the level of tolerance among Indonesian society?

Social media can offer many distinct advantages, such as a new business model for musicians and companies in general, and there are people who regularly use these sites and are genuine about what they’ve put up in the name of “social perfection”. Even more than the old-fashioned business world, there are ethics to do this, and one should think about the social impact when one posts something instead of aiming for high ratings, popularity and income.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing Indonesian society right now?

It’s the cyber armies, Saracen accounts, and hate speech by religious radicals. They are doing criminal acts, not unlike robbery or rape, and they should be investigated and processed urgently. Every passing day is crucial to their strength, so time is crucial in cracking down on them.

President Jokowi is doing a great job with the infrastructure development in our country, but if he doesn’t deal with these issues I mentioned, all of his work will amount to nothing, since Saracen will prevail in provoking conflicts among the uneducated people, which is a big number. Every December, the Islamic radical attacks against those who celebrate Christmas are getting more intense and ridiculous.

Saracen does it by publishing fake news, mostly about religion, a sensitive issue among the lower classes or uneducated people, about a community as if that community is attacking or mocking another community. President Jokowi should not underestimate the power of ignorant people, especially if they are large in number.

Social media has a major role in bringing up democracy, and we always forget that what Plato meant about democracy in The Republic is not only that everybody has the same rights. It means that the leaders who are to be elected should only be fulfilled by the state of his necessary desires, but not the unnecessary ones.

Necessary desires are desires we cannot overcome, such as our desire for shelter and sustenance. Unnecessary desires are desires that we can overcome yet refuse to. These desires include luxuries and lavish possessions.

These types of desires are a result of the necessity of status in the population, and that is addictive to any leader. That’s the root of corruption: not the necessity of money, but of status and power. So voters should judge their candidates based solely on this, not on the similarity of religion or race. Lastly, remember that conflicts based on religion and race are easily triggered by the social media.

Read also: Is Classical Music Really Dying and Social Media Its Murderer? 

Tags: Society, Indonesia, Pianist, Politics, Classical Music, Activist, Ananda Sukarlan, Piano Composer