You want me to eat fish for life?

September 23rd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink


Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day and before you know it he’ll come right back at your door.

Teach him to fish and you feed him for a longer time after which he’ll be bored eating fish and come right back at your door.

Leave him alone and you give him a valuable lesson: Nothing in life is free and only he is the master of his own destiny.

On homeland and history

December 23rd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

East Indies

What is a homeland? How does one define the place where one belongs? Why does one feel to belong there in relation to others who share this homeland?

Existential questions are inevitable when you try to understand a country as geographically, culturally, linguistically and historically diverse as Indonesia. The diversity of the archipelago now commonly known as Indonesia is immense, even beyond belief. In fact, many of those who proudly claim to be Indonesian may not quite understand this diversity.

Right in the heartland of Java, there’s animosity between the Sultan of Yogyakarta, and his supporters, and the central government, stemming from a government-initiated bill that the Sultan’s side accuses would take away the ‘specialness’ of the Special Province of Yogyakarta that has been recognized since Indonesian independence.

The major media seem to have been firmly behind the Sultan in this case as headline stories appear daily to offer the comments of experts who accuse the government of forgetting history, by which they mean how Yogyakarta came to be special in the country’s formation.

Selective memory is nothing rare, really, and those who accuse others of this error may not even realize that they are guilty of the same.

When the experts tell the government to learn their history, for example, are they telling them to learn about how Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX declared his domain part of the Republic of Indonesia when the nationalists proclaimed independence, or how his predecessor Hamengkubuwono I sided with Dutch colonialist powers to double cross his rebellious fellow Mataram royalty Mangkunegara, more commonly known as Prince Sambernyawa, to claim the region today known as Yogyakarta as his own?

People have been conducting mass rallies recently in Yogyakarta to show their support for the infallibility of the Sultan the recognition of the special status of the region. Some have even suggested the idea of an independent Yogyakarta state.

There is irony in this, as in other regions of the country different groups of people have been struggling for the same idea of independence for a long time and have been forced to endure war and oppression because of this. In fact, in these regions simply uttering the idea of independence or exhibiting any separatist symbol has got people in jail and torture chambers.

So they are telling people to learn their history. How about the history of South Maluku, where Dutch-trained Moluccan soldiers consistently defied the ragtag Indonesian troops who tried to force the entire archipelago to conform to the idea of a unitary state, and in fact managed to proclaim an independent South Moluccas Republic in 1951?

Also, let’s learn about the history of the western part of Papua or Irian island in which preparations for an independent state had to give way to annexation/incorporation into another state because of Cold War politics?

To many people from core Indonesian regions such as Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan, the idea of Indonesia as an expansionist project may sound silly if not outrageous. They really can’t be blamed, though, since history is taught in schools strictly in keeping with the state-sanctioned narrative. The history of Indonesia, in the state’s narrative, is of separate peoples on separate islands in the archipelago that are bound and united by the shared history of rising up from being under the oppression of Dutch colonialism.

Prince Diponegoro, for example, is always an Indonesian nationalist hero against Dutch colonialism, despite the legitimate question on whether or not he would rise up to lead the mass revolt against the Dutch if he, instead of his younger brother who was favored by the Dutch, was allowed to succeed his father’s throne, or on whether or not the Javanese nobility would support his cause if the Dutch had allowed them to extract rent on their land. Another question worth reflecting is whether Diponegoro’s defeat was caused by Dutch military supremacy, or simply by the fact that the Javanese nobility and peasants that had supported Diponegoro were given a better offer by the Dutch?

“History is a pack of lies we play on the dead,” according to Voltaire. Little wonder then that historical events are omitted from history books if they do not conform with the official narrative.

Rumah kita

December 22nd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Rumah Kita (Our House)

Hanya bilik bambu tempat tinggal kita
Tanpa hiasan, tanpa lukisan
Beratap jerami, beralaskan tanah
Namun semua ini punya kita
Memang semua ini punya kita, sendiri

A bamboo hut is all we have for home
No ornament, no painting there
The roof is grass, the floor is soil
But they are all ours
Indeed they are all ours, our own

Hanya alang-alang pagar rumah kita
Tanya anyelir, tanpa melati
Hanya bunga bakung tumbuh di halaman
Namun semua itu milik kita
Memang semua itu milik kita, sendiri

Tall grasses are all that fence our home
No carnation, no jasmine there
Poison bulbs are all that grow in our yard
But they are all ours
Indeed they are all ours, our own

Haruskah kita beranjak ke kota
Yang penuh dengan tanya

Must we leave for the city
Where questions abound

Lebih baik disini, rumah kita sendiri
Segala nikmat dan anugerah yang kuasa
Semuanya ada disini
Rumah kita

It’s better to be here, our own house
All the bounties and blessings of the Almighty
All are here
At our house

Jam Karet

November 25th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Jam Karet

Interesting discovery. Apparently, among the things that we Indonesians surprisingly manage to export is the concept of jam karet. There is a progressive rock band based in California named Djam Karet; a soundtrack from the American TV series Ally McBeal is titled such; and probably most advisory manuals for traveling into Indonesia such as this one will warn foreigners against expecting Indonesians to be on time.

In case you don’t know, jam karet simply means rubber watch, originally referring to the cheap plastic watch that people usually buy for their little children as a toy. When somebody is late for something, people will say he has a jam karet (or ngaret to say it as a verb) as a way of mocking him.

Now, reading the way the Djam Karet band explains what their name means in their biography page, however, I’m suspicious that some of the foreigners who have only heard the phrase but never been to the country may think it is some exotic eastern philosophical concept about the elasticity of the space-time continuum, instead of a way of describing slackers.

No amount of money is worth it

November 19th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

liputan haji-penganiayaan-tkw-15

Kompas ran a heartbreaking story today about the plight of Indonesian women migrant workers in Arab Gulf states. The backdrop of this story is a recent case of torture of an Indonesian maid by her employer in Saudi Arabia, and another more recent case where another maid was not only tortured but also had her throat slit and her dead body dumped in the garbage.

The journalist who wrote the story met a group of about forty of them at Dubai international airport as they were about to board a flight back home.

Wati, Ngatmi, dan puluhan perempuan di ruang tunggu itu pantas merasa lega. Mereka telah bekerja sebagai PRT rata-rata tiga bulan sampai dua tahun lebih di Dubai, Arab Saudi, Kuwait, Lebanon, dan beberapa negara lain di sekitarnya. Rasa kangen terhadap kampung halaman sudah membuncah.

(Transl.) Wati, Ngatmi and tens of the women waiting in the departure terminal rightly feel glad. They have have been working as maids anywhere from three months to more than two years in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and several other countries in the area. They deeply miss their homes.

And in my opinion they should just go home never to return. This is why:

”Saya sudah ganti enam kali majikan selama 2,5 tahun di Kuwait. Kadang karena tidak kerasan, terus minta ganti majikan. Penyebab tidak kerasan terbanyak ya soal kekerasan dari majikan,” kata Sa’diyah (38), warga Cimahi.

Ketika pembicaraan merembet ke masalah kekerasan, wajah-wajah para penyumbang devisa bagi Indonesia itu pun langsung mendung. Dari sekitar 40 tenaga kerja perempuan yang Kamis itu akan menuju Jakarta, hampir semuanya pernah merasakan kekerasan selama bekerja.

(Transl.) “I have switched employers six times during my 2.5 years in Kuwait. Sometimes it was because I did not feel comfortable with my employer. Why uncomfortable? Most of the time the reason was the violence of my employer,” said Sa’diyah (38) of Cimahi.

When the conversation switched to the topic of violence, the faces of these contributors to Indonesia’s foreign reserve turned dark. Of about forty women migrant workers who were leaving for Jakarta that Thursday, nearly all of them had been subjected to violence in their job. (emphasis mine)

I never realized that the violence problem was so widespread in these countries. I remembered after reading the piece that our new maid had also worked in one of the Arab countries before coming to work for us. I asked her about the violence, and she confirmed that the mother of her employer had once banged her head on the wall for some unclear mistake.

I’m not sure what this indicates. Is it possible for people in these different countries to have some overwhelming propensity for violence? I mean you can’t even consider this a crime. It’s pathological.

Here’s one worthy cause to pursue: STOP SENDING OUR WOMEN TO BECOME DOMESTIC WORKERS IN ARAB COUNTRIES. Any amount of riyal or dirham is just not worth it.

Croc on the roof

October 16th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Depletion of mangroves seems to have driven saltwater crocodiles in Bandung, West Java, to intrude into people’s homes with their usual preys such as birds and frogs virtually gone from estuaries along the coasts of South Java.

Or actually, a naughty male croc pet named “Koing” went loose from his cage and took a climb up to a nearby roof to enjoy his little moment of sunbathing. Koing’s owner is a longtime West Java councilman, Yoga Santosa, who had a little problem recently when his opponents alleged that his high school diploma was faked. The allegation was proven to be false, apparently.

Jakarta does not have floods, idiot!

October 9th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Flood in Muara Baru, Jakarta

Governor of Jakarta Mr. Fauzi Bowo has been very kind to point out to us that Jakarta does not have a flood problem. The excessive dampness you are seeing in the streets is a bit of water puddles here and there. Let’s not mix things up here folks. You know you’d be foolish to say the city is flooding when all that’s been happening is just some water that doesn’t drain quickly enough.

I guess when you ran on the platform of ‘Leave it to the experts’ for election, you have to constantly convince everyone that you are an expert. You really shouldn’t let the people judge you by what you’ve been doing. They are not smart enough to be able to differentiate between incremental improvements you have been making and a total mess of a city anyway.

Fokeexpert So here are some ideas. The people say you have failed them? Tell them there is difference between failing and not delivering. They are just not the same. Or they say you are not following through on your campaign promises? Tell them they are not looking hard enough!

Granted this may not make you look emphatic, especially when you’re quoted in the media. But so what? The media do not make people smarter anyway. They’re only good for sound bites right? They are no place for enlightened teachings on city planning jargons that you have to offer.

And of course saying these things may invite your opponents to say some foul things about you. But, pay no mind. If haters are not dissing you, who else will?

So please keep those inspiring words coming, Mr. Governor. Who knows, some of us idiots may end up learning enough from your wisdom that we can also be a governor like you!

Where does violence come from?

October 7th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink


The genius Isaac Asimov noted through his cunning character Salvor Hardin that “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent,” and maybe this is an accurate explanation for what is happening around the country lately.

Witness the rage of two ethnic communities in Tarakan, East Kalimantan, as they battle each other to seek what they seem to think to be justice. Or look at how some unverified hearsay provoked a community in Bogor, West Java, to attack their own neighbors and turn their houses and place of worship into rubble. Another example is the unfathomable scene of members of two ethnic gangs dueling in the street in front of the building where justice is supposed to be upheld, despite the presence of a significant number of policemen nearby.

Some scientists say that evolution has given us humans with a survival mechanism that tells us how to respond to a threatening situation. They say that our so-called limbic system dictates three modes of response of freeze, flight and fight when we are faced with danger. The first response, to freeze, is easily seen in animals who will suspend their motion, or even play dead when they see a predator. The flight response, on the other hand, comes into play when we sense that the freeze response does not eliminate the danger and tells us to flee for safety. When freezing and fleeing cannot save us from danger, then, the only alternative left is to turn our fear into rage as we switch to attack mode.

The evolutionary perspective seems to indicate that violence is really the product of desperation. We don’t usually resort to violence when less risky options are available, and really shouldn’t in the interest of our own survival.

But of course it would be wrong to say that violence is only a type of reaction to a perceived threat. After all there seems to be people who take pleasure in seeing others (and probably themselves) suffer. However, this is a type of pathology and doesn’t seem to fit the communal type of violence as we see here. The only way that this has anything to do with the recent string of violent clashes is if somehow there’s somebody behind the screen that is orchestrating the whole thing. Which is a really scary thought.

Naturally the question is then if what we’re seeing is a wave of desperation all over the country, or is it the work of some really sick individuals pulling all the strings in the shadows?

We have wet season, dry season, and what season?

November 26th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

I didn’t realize we were on a banning season.

I wrote about the website ban, but it turns out we might also have a book ban, did have a film shooting ban and a religious near-ban.


While we’re at it, we might as well summon Suharto, Ali Moertopo and Benny Moerdani back from the dead and go back to 1984 so we can ban non-Pancasila organizations, re-annex East Timor, revoke Islamic law in Aceh and reenact martial law there, and most importantly we also need to get the entire media back in the whitewash mode.

And lest we forget, we should also reinstate Petrus, the notorious covert sniper operation that aimed at criminals, and we need to extend the target to cover overly creative people who make even the slightest mention of the “c” word, non-majority groups, and authors-who-wrote-that-a-former-vice-president-might-be-a-local-CIA-operative.

Indonesia, wake up.

I realize we’ve only had time for democratic baby steps after the Reformasi–what with the big tasks of reversing the course of the ‘98 financial crises, revamping the executive, legislative and judicial branches, and now tackling the imported crisis, we’ve barely had time to do anything major. But the ban-now-and-let’s-get-on-with-life mentality you’re showing is really disturbing.

This mentality doesn’t always mean you abhor the truth, but it’s pretty close. And it’s absolutely indicative that you do not like differing perspectives.

And why do we need to have different perspectives when only one will do?

Because the other perspective might work, if not for you then for others. If no one benefits from the other perspective, then let it die a natural death so it pleases no one else.

Take lesson from some of the responses to the Bali bombers’ execution. You kill someone by force, some others will sympathize.

What happens then when you kill an idea? You are giving it more exposure, more fuel to the flame, and you end up getting even worse aftertaste.

But then again, if banning season is indeed on and will be so for many years to come, everyone might as well lay low and resist any penchant for intellectual vigor. After all, we probably could use some more idle time in our hands to beef up our skills for real street fighting, which is probably our national pastime, instead of the wordy ones, which are not.

tawuran YAI-UKI
tawuran unhas

Public smoking raid? This could turn nasty

November 18th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Smokers beware. There could be some scary stuff going your way if you forget about this:

Public is free to conduct anti-smoking raids

The 2008 No Smoking Area campaign to begin on Wednesday (19 Nov) will be conducted jointly by staff members of a number of Jakarta city agencies. However, this will only be so during the roll out, as oversight for this municipality regulation will be depended on the public.

“We are not going to put officers specifically for this job every day in every public place in Jakarta. For this roll out campaign, yes, but afterward it will all be up to the public to watch these places,” said the Head of the Jakarta Environmental Management Agency, Budirama Natakusumah, during a press conference at the agency’s office in Jakarta on Monday (17 Nov).

Mr. Natakusumah is basically admitting his hands are tied. Understandably. He’s been under the pressure of tobacco control groups, now armed with Bloomberg money, who have been clamoring for the government to enforce the anti-smoking regulation proposed by former governor Sutiyoso in 2005. But there you go, the enforcing agency admits it is not going to commit itself to do the job.

The problem is, the former governor is someone with grand, noble ambitions but isn’t really one that delivers much. If you don’t believe me, look at how the Busway is doing right now. He said the bus will arrive at each stop in every 1.5-5 minutes, but now you would be lucky to get on an empty one before waiting for 15 minutes, particularly on one of the stops outside the Blok M – Kota route.

And how about the monorail project? Let’s talk about that one. Like the website, the project is eternally ‘under construction,’ but unlike the website, the abandoned pillars that were supposed to hold the tracks are making the obnoxious Jakarta traffic worse.

The public smoking ban is not so much different from the monorail and the busway, in that they were all conceived immaculately (or illegitimately) because no father was willing to own them. The only difference now is that the anti-smoking gangs, flush withBloomberg’s money (and even more so now with contribution from Bill Gates), are stepping up to own this one.

Now I’m not arguing that public places shouldn’t be rid of the toxic tobacco smoke. Many smokers here are pugnacious and seem to lack the incentive to put out their cigarette when they stroll about public places. However, I have several objections about this anti-smoking campaign.

First of all, the regulation actually blurs the line between public places and private places. It defines “public places” as:

Any facility established by the government, private entities or individuals that is used by members of the public, including places owned by the regional government, central government, office buildings, public service facilities such as terminals and busway terminals, airports, train stations, malls, shopping centers, department stores, hotels, restaurantsand so forth.

The underlined items above are clearly private properties. If anyone is wondering whether there is such thing as respect for private property in this country, this regulation probably says it all. Now, you could argue that the private properties above forego their privacy by inviting members of the public to enter their premises. But as business owners competing with each other, I’d argue that they are best placed to make the most optimal decision in terms of how much smoking they should allow within their premises. The proof of this is that there had been never been any regulation to require businesses to set up smoking and non-smoking areas prior to 1999 (PP 81/1999), but places like restaurants, cafes, malls and even offices had actually set up smoking restrictions on their own.

My other objection to the campaign is that by having these activists conduct anti-smoking raids, the government is inviting the most rabidly anti-smoking elements of the fight against tobacco in a vigilante crusade against smokers. My view, it wouldn’t be so much different from calling on the FPI to enforce the porn law.

Now, does that scare you? I tell you it should.