Changing Mindsets 1 – Intro

Much of what I’ve posted on Jakartass in the past 10½ years, and written in Culture Shock! Jakarta, has been about comparing mindsets, those of the Indonesians I live and work with, and mine which was first established in post-WWII London.

Regular readers of Jakartass will know that I consistently highlight aspects of communal behaviour which impinge on personal space: queueing, road and sidewalk indiscipline, noise pollution, public broadcasts of private phone calls  … and the list goes on.

I’ve often ‘rationalised’ that because I’m a Brit, I’m more self-contained and private. Brits don’t have a café society or keep doors open to the street because it’s too bloody cold out, so living and working away from ‘prying eyes’ leads to insularity. To use a cliché, we mind our own business. (But love gossip and ‘reality’ shows – go figure.)

In hotter climes and poorer countries, such as Indonesia, in terms of western capitalism, street life and nongkrong is pervasive. This was defined by Tasa Nugraza Barley, newly returned to Jakarta in 2008 from his post-grad studies in the USA, as “to hang out” or, in Indonesian terms, “to meet, chat; and smoke some”.

But he initially felt lost here and found it difficult to readjust to living in Jakarta again.*

From my deepest heart, I feel so sad. I feel like I want to be a different kind of Indonesian; the kind of Indonesian that I never became. It would be a dream come true if I could say to my friends how proud I am of becoming a good and civilized Indonesian.

It would be so wonderful if I could tell my friends how I have been driving like a civilized person following every traffic sign and respecting the pedestrians.

I bet it would be amazing if I could tell my friends how I have been participating in saving the environment; how I don’t throw trash anywhere like I used to.

But it’s not easy to be the kind of Indonesian I want to be in this city. It’s so hard for me to be a good Indonesian when people around me don’t think that being an Indonesian also means that you can dream big and different.

It’s so hard for me to be the kind of Indonesian that I want to be when people look at me so weird just because I want to follow the right procedures.

And it’s so hard for me to convince others how my willingness to do great changes has nothing to do with my “Americanity”. It’s just simply because I’ve seen how other nations can be so much better than us and I think we can be like them too.

With respect to Tasa, I don’t want to be like an American or even a Brit. I want to be me, to accept cultural differences and live in harmony with my family and my communities. Not having been back in Blighty for an extended period for over 26 years, I can’t comment on life there and not being a romantic, I don’t feel nostalgic for British insularity which was far from welcoming to ‘offcomers’.

President-elect Jokowi has placed a change in Indonesia’s mindset at the philosophical core of his administration. That he was elected is perhaps taken by the international community as the first manifestation of the electorate’s growing political maturity, yet that would be to overlook the fact that many other directly elected officials, mayors, regents and provincial governors have initiated programmes for the benefit of their constituents and not merely for themselves.

I will examine various aspects of Jokowi’s programme over the next couple of months as he reveals more details. I hope it proves to be a worthwhile journey for all of us travelling the routes of his roadmap.
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* Much of the above is from something I wrote, but didn’t post, six years ago.

Image of the Week – 115 (Toilets)

The Cloaca Maxima
Photograph: Roger Wood/Corbis

The large sewage system that the Romans built through the heart of their capital, was the first of its kind, and in an odd tribute to that extraordinary people, is still functioning today (as is its equivalent in York). The Romans built collective toilets, similar to the one above.

Far too many Indonesians do not have proper toilets and use fields and rivers for defecation.

You could help by donating small sums to this organisation.

Not Making Amends

When asked why I’ve lived in Indonesia for so long, I generally reply that it’s because being regularly boggled keeps me alert. For example, at a farewell meal with a recently departed friend we were told that the restaurant didn’t have any vegetables. He remarked that ‘WTF? moments’ are delivered on a daily basis.

Today’s example is on the back page of the Jakarta Post; it’s a full page advertisement, in colour, for tvOne and ANTV. Both TV stations are owned by the family of Aburizal Bakrie, the much reviled oligarch who is currently chairman of the Golkar Party which he unilaterally aligned with presidential aspirant Prabowo’s coalition.

Quick counts were conducted following last Wednesday’s election and eight of Indonesia’s most respected survey companies showed that Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla won the election by a margin of between three and five percentage points. However, tvOne carried results by other companies which gave Prabowo a similar winning margin.

The Public Opinion Survey Association (Persepi) has since conducted audits of the polling companies and given a clean bill of health to those who predicted a Jokowi-Kalla victory. Of the four companies which predicted a Prabowo win, two, the National Survey Institute (LSN) and the Indonesia Research Center (IRC), were not members of Persepi. The two other companies refused to be audited; the Association has expelled Puskaptis, and JSI withdrew before being expelled.

One might reasonably expect, therefore, that Bakrie’s media companies might wish to keep a low profile. But no… this is the heading of the ad.

How many language errors can you spot?
(Note: no-one has been elected – yet.)

Back in 2005 I castigated AdamAir for a similar full page in colour of self-adulation. That ad had many more language errors, but like the one above just 70 or so words. I suggested that if the company couldn’t be bothered to check their English then they probably couldn’t be bothered to be maintain their aircraft.

A year later, thanks to a faulty inertial navigation system, it proved tragically true.

Of course, there is no suggestion that the above ad is an indication of pending fatalities. However, stock market sentiment has impacted on the shares of companies owned by Prabowo backers. Bakrie companies are especially unpopular, due to what is considered to be poor company management and a lack of transparency, as well as delays in submitting financial reports.
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These lyrics, by Kevin Ayres from the first Soft Machine album (1968) seem particularly appropriate.

It begins with a blessing, it ends with a curse
Making life easy by making it worse
“My mask is my master”, the trumpeter weeps
But his voice is so weak, as he speaks from his sleep …

Image of the Week – 114 (Children at Play)

Children on homemade stilts

I have often written about children’s play needs in an urban jungle such as Jakarta.

Outlets for exercising bodies and imaginations are few and far between. Outside school, few of which have recreational facilities, where parks exist, they’re for local residents. Elsewhere, the traffic chaos means that it’s easier to stay at home.

At home, hours are whiled away with manufactured toys which come with instructions, so time is wasted twiddling thumbs while gazing at video games on screen.

We can’t all live in rural surroundings, but more could be done to make Jakarta child friendly, and I most definitely do not mean creating more artificial environments such as Kidszone!

There is a need for a Fair Play for Children – Indonesia along the lines of the now 40 year old UK organisation. (Personal note: I was on the FPC – UK exec committee in the early ’80s.)

2pm: The Count

I’ve just visited two local polling stations and it’s running c.2:1 in Prabowo’s favour. This is not surprising as the area is a PKS & PPP stronghold.

But what I’m not sure about is how the count is being conducted.

At TPS 041, where ‘Er Indoor and Our Lad voted, the guy holding the ballot paper is calling out “nomor satu ” and “nomor dua“, but he’s not letting onlookers see where the papers have been marked..

At TPS 042, at the end of our street, the call is “Pra-bo-wo” and “Jo-ko-wi” … and we can hear him from fairly far off. He is holding the paper up for all to see where the hole has been punched in the paper.

It appears that at neither polling station is anyone actually checking whether the call is correct.

Conclusion? Confusion? Collusion?

Image of the Week – 113 (Bowed Piano)

This video of the Bowed Piano Ensemble offers both fascinating viewing and listening.

Prabowo’s ‘Friends’

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.
- Oprah Winfrey

I doubt that many, if any, of Prabowo’s campaign coalition will be riding with him when, hopefully, his campaign ‘limo’ breaks down and he has no further use for his campaign bus.

It’s said that ‘power corrupts’, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.
David Brin

However, if he does win, heaven help Indonesia because, like pigs at the trough, the corrupt political oligarchs will continue rule the rakyat through condescension and sleight of hand, the one not holding a fat brown envelope.

No longer friends

In 2004, Prabowo was elected President of the Indonesian Farmers’ Association (HKTI), although some say that he ‘bought’ the position. HKTI which was established in 1973 to advocate for the farmers’ rights, and he has been consistent in placing farmers and fishermen in the public eye as his core constituency when expressing his nationalism. Yet, the executive committee of HKTI has given their backing to Jokowi  .

HKTI secretary general Benny Pasaribu said, “We will say this to Prabowo Subianto: claiming to be the chairman of HKTI is unethical and wrong, as it can create a restive environment and uneasy atmosphere among HKTI committee and members.”

Fairweather friends?

Assuming that Prabowo loses the election, I suspect that many of his coalition partners will abandon him because they would be unwilling to establish a legitimate opposition in the DPR, the House of Representatives. An opposition is necessary in a democracy because it serves to monitor government policies which they deem to be against the interests of the electorate.

Four political parties, Golkar, Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and United Development Party (PPP), and the National Mandate Party (PAN) were part of SBY’s not very successful coalition.

Golkar, which was established as Suharto’s ‘Functional Group’, has never served in opposition. That the current chairman, Aburizal Bakrie has horse traded his party’s support in return, reputedly, for the position of Chief Minister in a Prabowo administration, has not gone down well with many in the party, The the youth wing in particular and many others have expressed their support for Jusuf Kalla, Bakrie’s predecessor as chairman and now Jokowi’s running mate.

Three of the Bakrie Brothers companies, coal miner PT Bumi Resources (BUMI), PT Bakrie Telecom and PT Bakrieland Development (ELTY), are currently defaulting on loans totalling c.$1 billion dollars and would be facing bankruptcy if the sums weren’t so huge.

Did Prabowo recognise a kindred spirit when offering this man a senior position in his administration?

The three other parties have versions of Islam running through their political aspirations. Only PPP has served in opposition, but purely notionally having been an amalgam of Islamic parties concocted by Suharto as a sop to democracy. Besides, any decision made by parliament had to be ‘consensual’, meaning that what Suharto decided was agreed with. Since reformasi, there has only been one true opposition party: Megawati’s PDI-P which nominated Jokowi for the presidency.

The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) did well in the last presidential election because it had a strong anti-corruption stance. This image was totally wrecked when the former chairman Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq was sentenced to 16 years in prison for graft and money laundering.

For many outside the PKS ranks, the face of the party has been Ir. H. Tifatul Sembiring (the Twittering Simplefool in Jakartass parlance) due to his role as Minister of Communication and Information. Many of his decisions, such as his blocking of various sites such as Vimeo because they may have images of bare breasts, have caused raised eyebrows, lots of ‘what-the-fuckery’ comments, and general mockery. .

The current chair of the United Development Party is Suryadharma Ali, who upset many in the party by unilaterally declaring the party’s support for Prabowo. For a while, this split the party, and the decision was rescinded, only to be ratified later by a delegates conference.

Until recently Suryadharma Ali was the Minister of Religious Affairs, although I cannot find reference to any assistance given to non-Muslim groups. Following his naming as a suspect in a hajj fund graft case and the discovery of suspicious transactions in his bank accounts, many in the party have called for him to step down. A dishonourable man, he hasn’t

Given Prabowo’s admitted role in the kidnapping and still unresolved disappearance of students and activists in May ’98, many were surprised when the National Mandate Party (PAN) agreed to join his campaign coalition. PAN’s founder, Amien Rais, was a co-founder of the Peoples Mandate Council which was instrumental in the abdication of Suharto.

PAN is an Islamic party, but is open to all elements of society, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. In the event of a Jokowi win, I suspect that PAN would be willing, if not eager, to join his coalition.

There are any number of politicians who have been named as suspects by the Corruption Eradication Commission. If I were to list them all here, it would be obvious that few publicly support Jokowi.
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One of Jokowi’s key supporters is Teten Masduki who was the Ramon Magsaysay Awardee (the ‘Asian Nobel Prize’) in 2005 for his public service in fighting corruption.

And in today’s newspapers, it is reported that the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) has answered public criticism of its failure to take a stand on the human rights record of presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto by officially endorsing Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
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This will probably be my last post about the election because as from Sunday, there will be a ‘cooling off period’ of three days with no campaigning allowed.

I do not have the vote, but as a long standing resident here supporting my Indonesian family, I do have a stake in the country’s well being. and, thereby, the future of my adopted tribe.

I also choose my friends with care, and so should the electorate.

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