For most of my life I’ve been an unashamed idealist. I once had a lapel badge proclaiming that, and have always thought that life is an index of possibilities.
However, last week, I dived uncharacteristically into a black mood and vegetated for a day slumped unseeing in front of my TV.
The day before, my team had believed that we’d finally, after much persistence, cleared all the obstacles in our path to fulfilling the application requirements for a government project. This involved uploading documents to department website where, presumably, a human checked them. That evening I received an email telling me that we’d done something wrong with the process. Just what was not stated. The address was “email@example.com”.
This blog will be eleven years old next month, and through its life I’ve chronicled my perception of life here in Jakarta. When I started in 2004, blogging was the relatively new ‘social media’, and the spirit of reformasi following the abdication of Suharto, witnessed here, was still in the air. Indonesians who had not been free to challenge Suharto’s thought control, now felt able to put their thoughts in writing. For some, it was an opportunity to voice concerns and suggestions about a better caring and sharing society. These took the form of opinionated rants, witness accounts, commentary and analyses, and you’ll find all those in the some 2,400 posts in my archives.
For example, the lack of adequate sidewalks is a topic I first tackled ten years ago. I’m pleased that this week the Jakarta Post is sufficiently aggrieved to feature the ongoing problem.
For many other bloggers it was on the level of ‘kissed the cat and hit the boyfriend’ or about ‘lifestyle choices’ and selebritis. It saddens me that my post ‘Sabrina‘ from June 2008 is still the week’s top read.
Of late, I haven’t had the mental energy to write polemics; the issues which concern me are now mainstream and much of what I want to say is said by others, and can be read in the English language media here, the Jakarta Post, the Jakarta Globe and Tempo. That really pleases me; the only occasional blogger of note about Indonesia affairs is Elizabeth Pisani, the author of Indonesia Etc.and she is based in London.
Apart from a few writing commissions which come my way, which do get posted here, my writing is now more of a ‘selfie’ nature, rather than the world at large. There is my series of Images of the Week, Jakartass’ Music, a new venture of uploading compilations of music from my extensive library, putting my Travel Diaries online. There are also my FaceBook Pages: Jakartass (for snippets), Green Indonesia, Save Balikpapan Bay, andI also occasionally contribute to IndoJazzia.
So why my title, you may ask.
It wasn’t so much the WTF moment which, as a friend once suggested, are delivered on a daily basis, but the shared feeling that reformasi is stalling.
Since his election last year, President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo has had it tough. Elected by the people because he was not seen to be part of the Suhartoist establishment, he kept reminding us that his priority was to ‘change the nation’s mindset’. Good, I thought. Not that I have the vote, but I figured that as Jakartass I’d played my part in that process.
Jokowi settled in with a reputation of listening to the rakyat and of getting things done during his tenures as mayor of Surakarta and as Governor of Jakarta. What many of us overlooked in our optimism was that Jokowi’s strong suit has always been the art of compromise. As a self made millionaire through his furniture making business and through his political reigns, he’d had to compromise. Now he has to bend to the desires and diktats of the politico-business élite who stalk the corridors of power. Unfortunately, they and the rakyat have one thing in common: the lowest common denominator of self-interest.
It’s relatively easy to understand why he prevaricated over the choice, Megawati’s choice, of a suspected’ corrupt policeman to be the chief of police. This has lead to a recurrence of the Cicak lawan Buaya (Gecko versus Crocodile) standoff between the National Police and the Corruption Eradication Commission last seen in 2009. But that is merely dispiriting.
There are a few explanations for Jokowi’s intransigence in not considering clemency for a number of prisoners on death row. Although I am opposed to capital punishment on many grounds, which I don’t intend to set out here, it is Jokowi’s stance which really bothers me; he indicates that “the political cost is too high for him to grant such pardons.”
After the apparent indecisiveness of SBY, perhaps Jokowi wants to be seen as a ‘strong leader’. That foreigners are among those awaiting a firing squad creates diplomatic tension which in turn heightens the fervour of innate nationalism among the rakyat. That favours those in power.
However, commuting death sentences to, say, life imprisonment for humanitarian reasons would demonstrate power as well if adequately explained. It would indicate high moral standards, something sorely lacking in a country rife with corruption and ‘selfies’, and would do much to change the nation’s mindset towards the positive values of community and unity in diversity.
I’ve railed against the moral corruption which pervades the nation umpteen times over the years. What really concerns me is that Jokowi is either cynically lying to the country about why the executions should go ahead, or he lacks the essential critical thinking one expects from a leader. I suspect the latter because, after all, he was raised in the Suharto era, as were his parents and teachers.
Is there really “an emergency situation” with drugs? Have a look at this scan of a cutting from the Jakarta Post and first consider this. Last year, the Health Ministry estimated there were 4.6 million drug addicts. For the last two months, Jokowi has given a figure of 4.5 million as a justification for executing drug traffickers. Last week the National Narcotics Agency gave a figure of 4.2 million addicts, and a couple of days ago this became “some”‘ four million. These figures alone are an indication that the President and his government departments are clueless about the rate of addiction.
Jokowi has also said: “Every day 40 to 50 of those drug users will die a tragic death.”
Really? Where do such figures come from? Perhaps he’s got confused with the number of deaths from tobacco related diseases every day.
Now do some simple arithmetic.
BNN predicts that the country could see an additional 75,000 new drug addicts each year. Over the 12 years of the rehab programme, one already enshrined in the 2009 Narcotics Law, that totals 900,000.
At that rate, it would take 60 years to reach 4.5 million. So, far from being an emergency, there is another indication of a decreasing trend in drug addiction.
I have no way of knowing if my conjecture is correct, but then neither does Jokowi, or any of the supposedly educated politicos braying for mob justice.
If Jokowi does continue down this path, then it will be time for the Jakartass of yore to return to action.