Examining independent society or civil society in Aceh is not the same as the history of civil society in the West of Indonesia. In Aceh, the community has a balanced relationship with power through religious authority embodied by the role of the ulama. So that the “will” of the people is connected with the leaders through what the people want, according to what the ulama wish to. In this essay, I will focus on the issue of civil society and corruption in Acehnese society.
Likewise, what is desired by the ulama is according to what is expected by the ruler (sultan or sultana). However, what is happening today in Aceh is consistent with what happened in the West, when social science theories were born. Meanwhile, when social science theories were born in the West triggered by the Age of Enlightenment, in Aceh, the Age of Enlightenment was happening. At that time, the social order had not been disturbed by the all-material thinking system.
The Acehnese build their system known as timang (parallel). When society is aligned, the social structure runs by itself—the main actors in society function as they should. Rulers maintain the community’s thinking system through religion and customs.
Meanwhile, scholars argue the community’s thinking system with culture and science. The people’s strength and maturity at that time were very well tested until the arrival of the invaders. Here, the invaders’ process was to start playing against the main actors and destroying the center of power, namely the palace.
At that time, the ruler, to keep getting the people’s attention, given the mandate of force to the authority of the ulama. So, when fighting against the invaders, the people depended more on the clergy than the nobility.
The social structure of society began to break down, namely that there was no longer absolute power in Aceh, namely the sultanate. The next phase is a lawsuit from the community against the nobility, which resulted in a social revolution in Aceh.
People no longer trust the nobility (bourgeoisie). Then the ulema became “holding power and authority simultaneously.” Whatever problems occur in society, they are resolved by the ulama, which function as “Fathers of Society.”
In this phase, the ulama finally asked for the sovereignty of the Acehnese people to return to the source of power on the island of Java. Again, the ulama rose against the government to restore the authority of the Acehnese people.
Unfortunately, after “sovereignty” was restored (read: privilege), the Acehnese no longer had a center of power, namely the kingdom. Finally, the portrait of Aceh and the role of the ulama is described by Taufik Abdullah:
“The almost endless wars made the ulama the formulator of authentic Acehnese ideals and strengthened their authority with the community.”
After that, the Indonesian government began to install the structure and paradigm of the social system of the Javanese society, and the issue of power was no exception. To make it easier to understand the Javanese power structure, the following is quoted from Koentjaraningrat’s view:
Legitimation of power using democratic elections is therefore irrelevant for traditionally oriented Javanese. For them, power is ascribed quality obtained through inheritance or divine favor. Consequently, the quest for power does not necessitate efforts to gain public support and approval. In contrast, the pursuit of popularity through public appearance and so on constitutes a hindrance rather than a valuable means tofacquiring power. In traditional Javanese societies, a leader’s ability is enhanced by keeping aloof from the people, remaining distant and hidden from view, or being a foreigner. However, the image of a just and righteous, sage, and exceptionally generous king, leader, or high-ranking administrator requires a constant effort of preservation and intensification using the appropriate ceremonial acts and rites, wherein material objects, chants, and actions symbolize the qualities of power and authority play a key role.
It can be understood that the Javanese power structure does not prioritize the democratic system. The leader is chosen because of their supernatural powers, and he “hides” behind his castle. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Sultan of Yogyakarta does not want a regional head election. Because if the election were held, it would shake his authority as the King of Java. Likewise, reverent people beside him would perform all the rituals that would help the charisma and power of the king.
As for society, in the Javanese understanding, “it does not move forward following a straight path, leaving the past behind, but grows from within by traveling the past to the periphery, like the skin of an onion.” In this culture, a new life of power develops in Aceh, where symbols of power from Java have been practiced, including the existence of civil servants.
In Javanese tradition, people who serve the king are known as Abdi Dalam. They functioned as harmonics of the cosmic order of the King’s power with outsiders. So that the terms abdi dalem and wong jobo (outsiders) emerged, which might be known as wong cilik.
The executor is known as the employee. Lombard said the word employee was formed from the Javanese root word gawai, which means “to manage” and “to work.” So the real meaning of the word employee can be estimated as “running” or “moving” the social order. The explanation regarding this employee can be seen in Lombard’s follow-up sentence:
So the clerk was initially a miniature of the ruler. He is the emanation of the king, and like the king, he too must ensure harmony in the part of the world (microcosm) that has been entrusted to him. He is a “subordinate” or “confidant” of his superiors, who controls a larger space (microcosm), and who have raised him personally. However, within the limits of the wiggle room entrusted to him, he has an almost absolute power… He doesn’t get the slightest fixed salary, just like a king who has no bylaws… Ideally, the clerk lives off his territory, like a king who lives from his kingdom.
As for the philosophy that was built, because there was no salary, it was “sepiing pamrih rame ing gawe (suppressing one’s interests and devoting all body and soul to carry out his obligations). Therefore, an employee will behave faithfully (loyalty), sadu (humility), and earnestness (tuhu ). This is a glimpse of the philosophy of power from Java.
From the description above, it can be understood that the culture of corruption in Indonesia, when the philosophy of being lonely and selfless, no longer appears. Apart from the fact that employees are not paid enormous salaries, the factor of using insider mindsets also triggers a culture of corruption. This is because the demands of life and economic needs have defeated setya, sadu, and tuhu.
People are competing to get into, with the term being appointed as an employee. Because once established, the philosophy of being a ruler like a king can be carried out. Because the smell of power is so strong, people are willing to do “anything” to become employees. Through money and through marriage with people who are close to capacity. Lombard describes it as follows:
Although subordinate employees do not participate in the alliance strategy in the palace, they try to imitate the same pattern in the space under their control, on the outskirts of the court. They tried to raise the social status of their children by implementing the right marriage strategy, namely by marrying their sons to women of higher quality or by marrying their daughters to great nobles.
We return to Aceh. Within the power structure above, Aceh becomes a province and has a Bupati. The Javanese palace paradigm has been incarnated in their system of thinking. Those from the noble group were given access to financial power and were examined in depth. Thus, it is not surprising that the Acehnese aristocratic group, which was once the “common enemy” of the Acehnese people, was strengthened by their economic power on the island of Java.
The process of destroying the structure of the role of the ulama was carried out in the New Order era. At that time, the ulema began to be considered the “determinants” for the victory of the Indonesian government’s political parties. Ulama and pesantren began to be approached by the authorities. The point is how to win the election.
Various government programs were then carried out through the power of the ulama. After that, the dependence of some scholars on the government emerged. This is where the ulama’s administration began to shift, as seen today. They are still needed in people’s lives, but their role in social and political fields has been played since the New Order era.
From the description above, it appears that civil society in Aceh is not yet independent. Essential elements in society, which in the past could stand alone, without the intervention of the authorities, in fact, after the New Order era, were no longer able to move on. They all need the ruler. Therefore, this sense of dependence is still accurate in every lifeline. For example, the behavior of people who want to be appointed as civil servants.
This can be seen in the public’s interest in paying honoraria to government institutions. Likewise, the sense of dependence of the ulama on the government began to appear, and it wasn’t easy to let go. Since the Acehnese social system is no longer independent, corrupt behavior will emerge when they want to be close and enjoy power.
Because the above behavior has occurred in the last 30 years, this tradition has entered the community’s thinking system. People are even ashamed if they do not commit corrupt behavior. If you don’t give tired money, coffee money, adeem money, and project allocations, it seems as if it causes a big problem.
As a result, individuals no longer carry out corrupt behavior, which is considered shameful but is carried out collectively with the support of an Indonesian-style government system. As explained above, religion will experience a dysfunction in a situation like this. Religion is only behind as a mere ritual. Meanwhile, culture will not be able to withstand the flow of corrupt behavior. This is because religion and culture cannot answer the problems of people’s needs and lifestyles, so King Midas’s behavior has become symptomatic in Acehnese society.
 (Azra 1999c)
See also(T. Abdullah 1996, 171)
 (T. Abdullah 1996, 172)
Read also(Magnis-Suseno 2003)
 (Koentjaraningrat 1986, 290)
 (Lombard 2008, 72)
 (Lombard 2008, 72)
 (Lombard 2008, 73)
 (Lombard, Nusa Jawa Silang Budaya: Warisan Kerajaan-Kerajaan Konsentris 2008, 75)
 (Amiruddin 2003)
 (Hidayat 1998)