Our world works in a mysterious way. Nothing is impossible, miracles do happen, and real heroes have become part of our daily lullaby. A real hero might come in a way that you least expected. A way that will not only surprise you but also affect you and other millions of you in the past, now, and in the future. This is an epic story of a man who belived in the value of humanity, dignity, and freedom. A man with his thought, passion, and with the help of paper had brought lights and courage to the life of many people. This is the story of Eduard Douwes Dekker.
Eduard Douwes Dekker was born in Amsterdam from a father of a sea captain, Engel Douwes Dekker, and his mother Sietske Eeltjes Klein. There was nothing extraordinary that happened to him during his childhood and teenager. He was a smart student and destined to do clerical job. However, he left his studies after three years and worked in a textile business. To Eduard, working in a textile business had become his boredom and at the age of eighteen he went with his brother to the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), a Dutch colony.
They arrived in Batavia in 1839 and Eduard held a position as a civil servant. He held several positions in the Dutch East Indies and occasionally he also moved from one place to another. Everything changed but one thing remained the same, he understood how the Dutch administrative system worked and he began to openly protest about the abuses of the colonial system. As a consequent, he was threatened with dismissal from his job position for his openness of his speech. Dekker resigned and returned to the Netherlands. He was determined to expose in detail the scandals he witnessed, and he began to do it in articles for newspaper and pamphlets.
Everything came in a peak in 1860 when he wrote his famous novel Max Havelaar, a novel which opened up the exploitation in the Dutch East Indies. In the novel, he criticized the system of colonialism in which the native people were exploited. The novel was read all around Europe and became the milestone of the Indonesian nationalist movement and the changing of the Dutch foreign policy on its colony.
Without Eduard Douwes Dekker, there would be no Dutch Ethical Policy which opened up education, irrigation, and many other aspects which lead to the Indonesian nationalist movement such as Indische Partij, which mentored the characteristics of Soekarno, the leader of Indonesia’s struggle for independence. In essence, without Eduard Douwes Dekker perhaps Indonesia would be still in its dark ages, or even worse, there would be no Indonesia.
For me, Eduard Douwes Dekker was a hero, a pioneer of Indonesian nationalist movement. He might not complete his great intention by himself nor did he have the greatest skills on his literary writing. For me, he was just a human being who was very courageous and was able to stand up for humanity, a human being from the past who taught us a great lesson towards our future.
Limanta, Liem Satya. 2004. What’s Left From Max Havelaar’s Failures: Max Havelaar’s Failures in Improving the Indigenous’ Life in Multatuli’s Max Havelaar or the Dutch Coffee Auctions of a Dutch Trading Company. KATA VOLUME 6, NUMBER 1, JUNE 2004: 57-74.
Liukkonen, Petri. 2008. Multatuli (1820-1887) Pseudonym of Eduard Douwes Dekker; Multatuli in Latin: “I have suffered much”, retrieved from: http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/multa.htm on April 2, 2013.
Rickfels, Merle. 2008. A History of Modern Indonesia since c. 1200. Palgrave MacMillan, New York.