Mbah Marijan, our hero

Amid the diffuse news on Merapi, the Volcano close to my city, there happens a "little war" between modernity and tradition, rationality and non-rationality (I would never call it "irrationality), state authority and personal authority, and, ultimately, Mbah Marijan and Sri Sultan.

As the news told us, Merapi may has reached it eruptive phase and will not have a greater eruption. And... thank God, Mbah Marijan and the people in his village who believe him are safe.

Mbah Marijan based his knowledge on non-scientific method. Some believe that, as the one who is "in charge" in Merapi, he can communicate with the spirits of Merapi.

Sultan Hamengkubuwono X is supposed to have the same way of communication with the spirits who live in Merapi and south ocean, but from the interview I watched in SCTV, it is obvious that he is not like the traditional sultans. He is a modern and rational sultan and he doesn't have what his predecessor had: a close relation to the "nature". He believes more on statistics than spiritual signs.

Has Javanese philosophy of power changed? To what happen in the case of Merapi, I would say yes. Sultan no longer rely on charisma or myth, and he rely on nothing more than constitutional basis granting Yogyakarta special status. Other than that, sultan has no legitimacy.

Mbah Maridjan, on the other hand, showed us how some traditional aspect of authority working in traditional community. The traditional kings/sultans were like Mbah Maridjan, based their political authority on what mbah Marijan does: spiritual and myth.

After all, Mbah Maridjan is a hero. He simply points to other paths that we can follow. Truth and knowledge are not only product of science, but also of othe sources.

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