ASEAN: a journey in search of identity

Region interest as reflection of nation interest

How can I describe Southeast Asia, no single place is sufficient to describe it, no single language is sufficient to manifest it, Southeast Asia is so rich in diversity. There are so many cultures and interests that somehow can coexist to support the wheels of civilization.

ASEAN on stake

Facts about the countries in Southeast Asia that are compiled in ASEAN are difficult to define on a specific identity. Sometimes it results in the inefficiency of the axis of ASEAN movement in achieving its vision. A real example of the economic prospects, when a company imagines China, they have a pretty clear picture of what to expect from China with its achievements today, as well as the African region which is so well publicized and narrated to the international community, and this has a profound impact on the rise global exchanges such as investment or import export.

The narrative of Southeast Asian countries that are blurred about their characteristics and stance as an identity is evident, with ASEAN countries often solving problems exclusively and independently. But amid cultural differences, there are also many ideological differences in countries in Southeast Asia that make it impossible for ASEAN to become an initiator that brings one ideological similarity to its institutions, it must maintain and uphold diversity itself. For this reason, ASEAN as an institution needs to question again about the strategy to achieve the vision of ASEAN ONE VISION ONE IDENTITY ONE COMMUNITY.

In the narrative of the book “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty” by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson there is a concept of “inclusive and non-extractive institutions” as a solution.


I interpret that inclusion and non-extractive can be achieved through democratization. Democratization in the sense of producing an ecosystem that animates the mind through public discourses. However, this is not achieved only by changing the constitution of the country concerned to become democracy, more than that democratization does not begin through the constitution, nor by orders from the highest leadership or the high priest.

Today, many countries that have democratic constitutions but whose people do not live them, tend to kill them by allowing themselves to be enslaved by doctrines which they do not even dare to question but are willing to die for. You may interpret it in terms of belief or religion, but the doctrine of “a child who fails to formal education will not succeed” is sufficient to prove that a simple doctrine that does not promise heaven alone can cost so many lives.

The democratization of society begins with self-democratizing, if it is manifested in my opinion, “Everything is lawful for me, but I do not allow myself to be enslaved by anything,” this is what I know as “liberty”. That way, democratization can be achieved without having to change the constitution first.

Civil Liberties

Furthermore, ASEAN countries, which claim to guarantee the human rights of their citizens, need to really do it again and open up discussions about civil liberties today. Starting from the priority, the concept to the realization, the contradiction is very strong. Conversations between citizens, public discourses must be pursued and it is very fatal if citizens feel threatened to discuss one or several certain topics, especially if a state that claims to guarantee human rights ensnares its citizens with certain laws just for speaking out. Free is absolute, “free” and “but” can’t coexist with a single provision, resulting in contradictions. If there is a “but” as an exception to a provision, it would be better if the vocabulary of freedom turned into conditions, e.g: f̶r̶e̶e̶d̶o̶m̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶s̶p̶e̶e̶c̶h̶ conditions of speech.

Basic concepts such as freedom must be thoroughly studied and discussed throughout the region in order to produce a truly civilized civilization.

Scale up

The ability that allows resolving broader conflicts is above a reflection of narrower conflict resolution. Through a culture of good public discourse from a country concerned, it will be very easy for ASEAN countries as a broader platform, where society, region, race, ethnicity, religion or country only resolve but as part of ASEAN.

As a shared understanding as a Southeast Asian block, regional interests are a reflection of the interests of the state. With the culture of public discourse and the democratization of information, even the smallest to the largest scale problems can be conquered, as easily as localizing large conversations to become things of conversation at the dinner table.

Imagine going to a city that is not very developed, when you sit in a cafe drinking black coffee, and you hear a group of people next to your table talking about genetic technology, then you glance at the television in the corner of the room, academics and scientists are having a discussion. through talk shows about the latest genetic technology, and all those influencing the whole city to talk about this technology as a hot chat in the city’s people, I will not be surprised if in the next 10–20 years the city will be superior in genetic technology.

What it takes for ASEAN as an institution?

As it covers such a rich area. We are so rich that we sometimes doubt whether we can see this wealth as an advantage or a weakness. There is a possibility that wealth on this basis makes ASEAN not have such good prospects, it seems rather difficult to determine a future goal for ASEAN as a common interest. Yet ASEAN is so rich, answers are available from all corners of the region.

For ASEAN to become an institution that is inclusive and not extractive in nature, only turning matters into a territory of discussion at the dining table in its member countries, localization of complex conversations even to societies that are not very intellectual can have such an impact. Like the prejudice of solving cancer in the brains of children who cannot afford education, it could be that solutions to Southeast Asian problems are found at coffee shop tables.

By pursuing a public discourse. Communities actively discuss across borders by not injuring the values ​​of their respective nationalities with the awareness of regional interests as well as the interests of the state, ASEAN as the forefront of striving for democratization that makes intellectual minds and produces civilization. Trust ASEAN will find its way, and the best will come soon.