Changing Mindsets 2 (One True God)

The central dilemma of history is that the dynamic that promotes economic prosperity arises largely from the conviction that the material world alone constitutes true `reality’.
- Blurb for Holding Up a Mirror: How Civilizations Decline by Anne Glyn-Jones

‘The Philosophical Basis of Human Rights in Indonesia’ is the heading of this page on the website of the Indonesian Embassy in London.

The Indonesian Government has consistently endeavored to adhere to the humanitarian precepts and basic human rights and freedoms embodied in its national philosophy, Pancasila, its 1945 Constitution, and its national laws and regulations. Indeed these precepts, rights and freedoms, as embodied in the constitutional and legal system, derive from age-old traditions, customs and the philosophy of life of the Indonesian people.

One of the ‘Five Pillars’ of Pancasila is that everyone should believe in “the one and only God”. And that has caused problems because various sects think that they are the only true believers and show little respect, even resorting to violence, to prove to themselves that only they will ‘inherit the earth’ once they have departed for the hereafter.

President-elect Jokowi, a devout Javanese Muslim, has stated that he wants to retain the Ministry of Religious Affairs, whereas my contention is that its retention will do little to change the nation’s mindset.

His call for a change in the people’s mindset is the raison d’être for this series of posts. However, although I do agree that improvement in areas like health and education is crucial in achieving that, I do not believe that building “a foundation to make people more productive and competitive in the economy” is the correct aim.

(“Productive”, meaning to raise incomes in order to purchase what is produced from finite resources, and “competitive”, meaning in world markets.)

The economic development in my opinion is first, to build the human resource, through education…What kind of education? We should do mental revolution.”
(I can’t decide if that is the way Jokowi speaks or if it’s a Google translation!)

I believe that what we are witnessing in the western world and in the so-called ‘developing world’ is the breakdown of civilisation, much of it rooted in global capitalism, which has created a divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, who being disenfranchised turn to religion, to ‘God’s will’, as an excuse-cum-palliative for their predicament.

The most cursory of internet searches unearths the following interactive site which offers a historical overview of how and why civilisations collapse.

The history of humankind has been marked by patterns of growth and decline. Some declines have been gradual, occurring over centuries. Others have been rapid, occurring over the course of a few years. War, drought, natural disaster, disease, overpopulation, economic disruption: any of these or a combination of these events can bring about the collapse of a civilization. Internal causes (such as political struggles or overfarming) can combine with external causes (such as war or natural disaster) to bring about a collapse.

Natural disasters are generally caused by the movements of Planet Earth’s tectonic plates which lead to volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis and landslips. These naturally occurring events, few of which are predictable in their timing, often lead to massive loss of human lives. However, these should be termed ‘man-made disasters’.

The widespread death toll from the 2004 Aceh tsunami was exacerbated by environmental destruction such as the removal of mangrove forests and other coastal defences in order to build tourism projects. The death tolls from earthquakes are unacceptably high because of the shoddy (and often corrupt) construction of buildings in known earthquake zones. Landslides are preventable by not removing the tree cover: their roots prevent rootlessness.

The planet can only support a limited human population. Its constant expansion has lead to the rapid reduction in finite natural resources: minerals, fertile land (concreted or paved over for industrial and other infrastructure ‘developments’) and, especially, potable water.

Humanity as a whole, and not just in Indonesia, needs a different mindset if it is to survive, and a vital key to that is ecopsychology.

The basic idea is that while the human mind is shaped by the modern social world, it can be readily inspired and comforted by the wider natural world, because that is the arena in which it originally evolved. One has to include the relationship of humans to other species and ecosystems. These relations have a deep evolutionary history; reach a natural affinity within the structure of their brains and they have deep psychic significance in the present time, in spite of urbanization. Humans are dependent on healthy nature not only for their physical sustenance, but for mental health, too. The destruction of ecosystems means that something in humans also dies.

(The way things are going, that last sentence should read: The destruction of ecosystems means that humans also die.)

So, yes, I do believe that all peoples should respect and obey the laws of the One and Only God.

And her name is Gaia, aka Mother Nature.

Image of The Week – 116 (Jokowi)

Indonesia’s president-elect Joko ”Jokowi” Widodo sits on a bench at Waduk Pluit in Jakarta while waiting for the announcement of the results from the Elections Commission last Wednesday.
Credit: Reuters/Beawiharta

He knew, we knew and we soon rejoiced while his opponent, General-who-was-fired Prabowo Subianto, acted like a spoiled child who’d lost his rattle.

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.
* 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.
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?

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