Too Much Traffic, Too Little Time

Jakarta-Motorcycle-Traffic-Jam-201006We, Indonesian’s, are the proud owner of the title of the country that holds the city with the worst traffic in the entire world. So let’s all rejoice in this award given by the Castrol Drivers, a motor oils company, because it is a title that only we can hold. Or perhaps we can be realistic and not be proud of the traffic in our country. Whoever says they like the traffic because they can do their homework in the car or it gives them time to listen to the radio whose hosts are so funny it seems that listening to them talk for an hour does not get boring. Everyone knows that the large amount of cars, coupled with small roads, are what’s causing the traffic jams. Everyone I know (including myself) complains on a daily basis about the traffic but they don’t do anything about it. To get to work of course you need a car but how about menial things like going to the bank on the holidays? Perhaps going to the mall or a café? I go to a few cafes and Cilandak Town Square with my bike or longboard but as I do this on a weekly basis, I understand why other people do not do this. The main roads are filled with motorbikes who zoom away as they please, disregarding the safety of others and often disregarding traffic lights and proper driving etiquette. This makes it extremely dangerous for bikes to be riding around and making long journeys. Due to the humongous amount of motorbikes, they sometimes often take one lane just for themselves.

Another reason why traffic jams happen, especially in smaller roads, is the fact that there are multiple projects going on simultaneously such as the MRT project, road expansion and the building of flyover. The MRT project for instance is starting to tick me off because it seems as though they did not plan it out properly. Every part of it is being built simultaneously which means that the streets are getting smaller everywhere. When in Makkah, I saw the Bin Laden Cleaning Company in action and boy oh boy were they efficient. They closed of small parts of the mosque and cleaned in under 5 minutes and then they would move on to the next part. Why couldn’t our government do this? Localize the building of these roads in certain areas, make sure they are finished to the extent that the roads could then be open again, and then continue to the next bit. Traffic may be reduced if this was to happen, but it did not, so it is not.

As to why traffic is bad in places with smaller roads, for example places like Kemang, we can blame it on the people who park on the roads. Now surely we all have done this in the past, we might still do it now but please stop. For one you are being extremely selfish and for two, it is a health hazard. When I did my internship in the Jakarta Government Office (Balai Kota Jakarta) I remembered Ahok, the Governor of Jakarta, say that the reason why the fire department is always late to the fires is because they could not get their trucks past certain points because people were parking on the side of the road.

So perhaps we could stop blaming the government and its president for the traffic jams because it is not completely their fault, it is partly ours. Although this may be true, the job of the government is to tackle these problems and so far all we have heard are empty promises. Maybe if Jokowi can stop worrying about drug trafficking and focus on the traffic that I believe demands more attention, he can think of a solution. But if we do our part, the government might then do their part. Although there is no guarantee of this as politicians often make promises they cannot keep, we can surely try to not park on the side of the roads, or even try to bike to places like the market or malls that are close. For people who say “Malls don’t have bike racks and my bike will be stolen” stop making excuses, malls do have bike racks, you just have to find them (most Seven Eleven has a massive pole you can tie your bike to and I’m sure Alpha Mart has the exact same thing). I have been biking to mini marts and cafes and malls for about 3 or 4 years and never has my bike been stolen.

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The Youth

tumblr_nlyu46ZsGv1upkjebo1_1280The youth, from childbirth, through teenage years and up until the first years of adulthood is an interesting thing. The reason I say this is because, sociologically speaking, we are parasites. We do not create anything (monetary wise and of course there are exceptions) and all we do is leach on the wallets of our parents, turning the cogs of the capitalist society. I have recently watched Jon Savage’s ‘Teenage’. It is a documentary film about teenagers in the past and how they were created. For those who have not watched this I urge you to do so.

The documentary tells us that ‘teenagers’ were and are a social construct that was created by American adults to give a sense of freedom to children but still control and restrict them. Back then children had parties where they danced the ‘jitterbug’ and other dances, they dressed oddly to the point where it was hard to separate the girls from the boys because they looked alike and the adults took away all of this. Back then most of the dances and music came from America but this culture had its way of spreading around the world and it finally reached Germany. The German kids then were influenced by this culture and Hitler saw an opportunity to keep this American culture away and instill nationalism in the hearts of the youths and so the Hitler Youth were born. Now this may seem like a twisted and demented thing, forcing children to love their country, making them march hours and doing low class military training. You might even say this is brainwashing those children to wanting to get into the army once they are old enough to do so. Well you are 100% right.

Don’t be too happy though because the Hitler Youth was the template of our modern day scouts and in the United Sates it would be the Scouts, JROTC and the ROTC. All of these are exactly like the Hitler Youth. This was a way of keeping them out of trouble and making sure that, in Hitler’s era (and arguably now as well), the army has a steady supply of soldiers. The youth are suddenly profitable for an investment in the future. With this in mind I then thought of delinquency because however successful the scouts are, there are those exceptions who reject the ideology presented to them. It is a different age now and although in western countries the scouts are still a large part off the upbringing of children (I too was in the scouts when I was younger) in countries like Indonesia, it is the schools who make them do military-like procedures such as the ‘upacara senin’ where they sing the national anthem on Monday morning and raise the flag-pole. The younger children have Pramuka and the older have Paskibra. The Paskibra are slightly more exciting because they have competitions for it and there is even a nationwide competition where the best of each of the provinces go head to head to show their affection to their country in a choreographed set of uniform movements. Perhaps this means that the Hitler Youth have morphed itself once again and this time it has turned into a sort of competition.

Now it should be clear that the point of having the scouts is to mold the minds of the youth and to ensure that they do not break the laws, they be punctual and obey authority however, in any and all civilizations we still see delinquency from small petty instances such as talking back to a teacher to something severe such as arson or drug abuse. I have a theory about this. Perhaps these ‘anomalies’ are created because they are confused as to why they have absolutely no power or say in anything and are expected to follow certain rules set by strangers who are now dead. I remember something a friend of mine said a few years ago while he was stressed out and the teacher was yelling at him. He said “How are we supposed to learn 10 different subjects while the teacher can’t even teach all of this”. This just further highlights my point. These anomalies probably feel like the adults of the society has cast them into an abyss and forgotten. In the Indonesian we have a ministry of youth and sports and to be honest (I may be wrong about this) but I believe most of the things he does has nothing to do with youth alone but rather youth in sports.

I can say that children here in Indonesia do not completely agree with the government and what they are doing. One very easy indicator is the UN, the national examinations. Most people just cheat on this. Their class would pool in money, buy the answer keys from a dodgy jockey and get grades good enough to go to university (of course not everyone does this). This and the smoking violations, the drinking violations, the drug violations and even under aged driving. Should there be a teenager in the government to give voice to the younger generation? Ask this to any adult and their answer would be along the lines of “No, they’re just children they don’t know what they want” and yet in the presidential election I remember the two opposing parties tried to cozy-up to us and saying that we are the future of our country. Jokowi even went to a Metallica concert for a PR stunt. Sure he might actually like Metallica but he could just not tell the press he was going but he wanted to appeal to us. Jokowi also once said he is killing drug traffickers to protect the youth. They value the youth so much but they never bothered to ask what we think. Why is that? Food for thought.

Corruption is a flower that needs to be uprooted

venus-flytrap-facts-for-kidsI have recently watched a documentary made by Rexy Rambadeta called ‘Everyday Faces of Corruption in Indonesia’. It does not matter what age, sex, ethnicity you are, I urge you to watch this documentary. The documentary exposes the corruption culture in Indonesia although the documentary itself focuses mostly on Jakarta.

One scene depicts a man whose job was to be check the tickets of passengers before they reach the platform and surprisingly, he looked like he couldn’t care less and was not doing his job properly. The following fact was not apparent to me but apparently, it is standard practice to board the train and not have a ticket. You often can just pay Rp 1,000 to the conductor once in the train. The documentary argues (and I agree with this argument) that this is a form of corruption because you are not buying a ticket to use a government sanctioned service. The money paid to the conductor will only go to his pocket to perhaps buy cigarettes when he is on his break and not to the nation where the money could possibly be beneficial in expanding welfare programs or upgrading the infrastructure we currently have. Of course the conductor may well need the money to be able to live but I believe that people should be told to buy tickets because it benefits the greater good of Indonesia. This has become standard practice and over the years, the loss of money would be monumental.

The fact that it could be considered standard practice worries me extensively. The documentary also exposes the corruption that happens when getting a drivers license. Just like any other country, there is a written theory and practical test that must be completed in order to receive your license. In Indonesia however, it’s slightly different. The documentary tells us that you have to go to an ‘intermediary agency’ (or as the locals call it, ‘nembak’) and pay them a certain amount of money in order to pass the exam. For the highest price, you don’t even need to take the exam. Just take the photo and come back in an hour or so. For a lesser price, you just have to sit through the exam (just randomly circle answers, whatever you get you will end up having a passing score of at least 18/25) and drive a mere 2 meters for the practical part of the test.

It has become apparent to me that Indonesia does not have a drugs culture (the news seem to think we do with its excessive coverage on the latest smugglers that were caught) or one based on hedonism. We have a Corruption Culture and this needs to stop. We have no time for a political or economic revolution. We need a Mental Revolution. We have this horrible mentality of always trying to find shortcuts (in this case bribing and other forms of corruption) and it is hurting our country dearly. The small bud that was corruption has now grown its stalk and soon it will bloom into an acidic flower that will spoil its soil. We must grab corruption by its stalk and pull hard until all its roots are out of the soil, our soil, because if we let the flower to bloom, we will all be done for. The corruptors high up in the political food chain will start becoming greedier and greedier and at the end there will no longer be anymore resources to be coveted. The way to stop this is of course getting rid of the mentality so that the younger generation will not repeat the mistakes of its predecessors.

Ahok should not step down

Recently the Governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (otherwise known as Ahok) was threatened by Indonesia’s House of Local Representatives to step down from his position as Governor. The story of why this happened, goes like this:

The way it works in Indonesia is that the Governor would create a budget plan for Jakarta. The budget is then to be approved by the House of Local Representatives (DPRD) before it can be given to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Corruption is very common in the political system and within government but anyone who follows Indonesian current affairs would know that Ahok is immensely repelled by corruptors. Ahok found out that the budget that was approved by the DPRD was in fact not the one he had created. The DPRD, who are rich men and women who own their own businesses and have vested interests in decisions made, altered the document to put in projects that use state budget to make money for their businesses and themselves. Ahok’s rage grew and so he gave the Ministry of Home Affairs, who is supposed approve the budget, his original budget so that the minister may see the difference between the one he and his office originally made, and the one ‘revised’ by the DPRD.

Now the masses (such as you and me) have all claimed that we are against corruption. This could be seen in the ‘Save KPK (Corruption Eradication Commission)’ movement when it was under attack from the National Police. This contradicts the messages that swirl around meeting rooms, cafes and activist headquarters. The nation was split. Though we all advocate for a non-corrupt government it seems as though when it comes down to picking a side, we are still confused.

Ahok has broken the rules, the law, in giving the Ministry of Home Affairs the unapproved budget but I don’t believe he is at the wrong. I have had the luxury of being able to shadow the governor for a week in October last year as part of work experience and from what I can see, he is quite an amazing governor. He has even inspired me to take political science as a major in university. He has a Robin Hood mentality. No he does not steal from the rich and give to the poor but, just like Robin Hood, he would do what he think is right even if it means breaking the law. He has a deep hatred for corruptors, sometimes in his office he would talk about how bad corruption is to his employees just like a grandfather talks about the war to his grandchildren (not slow and boring butfilled with emotions).

Ahok has also left his political party because he felt that the political party was pressuring him to make certain decision he does not necessarily want to make. The head of a faction in Gerindra (Ahok’s former political party) M Taufik just happens to be the Vice Chairman of tthe DPRD. He is currently still angry that Ahok left his political party because then he could not exert his influence over the decisions made for the city of Jakarta. Because the opportunity arrived, he threatened to remove Ahok from his position as Governor which then inspired many petitions to save his position as Governor.

In my opinion Ahok will remain as Governor due to his popularity and that the legal process to remove him from power is a lengthy one and to be perfectly honest, I would much rather have a Governor who occasionally breaks the law to show people the truth than a House of Representatives that try to get rid of those people trying to expose the dirty truths about their corrupt ways. Furthermore, don’t these people have better things to do than try to exact revenge? Jakarta is still in disarray with its pot hole infested roads, bad drainage system and the occasional threat of floods. I believe M Taufik should stop being a child and just get on with his work, the one that the tax payers paid him to do.

Why West Papua will not be ‘liberated’

lets-travel-to-west-papua-indonesia-with-Grenville-Charles-6If you do not know what is going on in West Papua please read my last blog, there are some background information available.

Politics in Indonesia is a game played by those in power to further their personal cause. It would be important to note as well that the government structure of Indonesia is decentralized which means that each head of province has their own budget and can make decisions themselves (with restrictions of course). With this in mind, the following are my reasons to think why West Papua will not be liberated. Although I believe they would not be ‘liberated’ (I don’t beleive they are oppressed), I do hope the locals will, in the future, have better lives. By liberated I mean be an independent, sovereign country.

  1. It is not a secret that the Jakarta government saps money out of West Papua. Many people think its wrong and they are right but only to a certain extent. A majority of the Indonesian people live in Jakarta and naturally, the government would need more money.
  2. Freeport (a mining company) has snuggly began mining there which create jobs and revenue for West Papua, Jakarta and Indonesia as a whole. Freeport is a multinational company and having them within Indonesia could attract other businesses (mostly within the same sector/area of business)
  3. If West Papua will not use force to achieve this ‘liberation’ because people are still traumatic from the war in East Timor which is now an independent country but the civil war was horrifying. Thousand of lives lost and countless heads on pikes to inspire fear.
  4. West Papua has natural resources.
  5. How will we be sure that their independence will not only benefit the politicians there but also the locals? We can’t.

In West Papua there are also illegal artisenal gold mining taking place. The companies who are mining it of course have people in government on their payroll so hat they don’t get caught. Fake documents are also not insanely hard to create in Indonesia.

The locals of West Papua are impoverished (as seen in the movie ‘Tanah Mama’) and since beggars can’t be choosers, they do not care what happens as long as they can find a way to get more money and get out of poverty. This would mean that if their government needed to persuade the people to want to be independent, it would not have been a hard task.

Moreover, what makes people think that if West Papua is independent it will thrive and suddenly all of its people will get out of poverty. The truth is being independent is not the answer because once that happens, the government will then take even more advantage of the locals and as the old song gets sung again. The rich will get richer whereas the poor will get poorer.

The answer is quiet clear. Indonesia has to provide for the people of West Papua. The illegal mining needs to be stopped so that we can reap all of its benefits. The Indonesian central government must create jobs for those people because as of now, West Papua is still a part of Indonesia and therefore must be treated as such. If president Jokowi manage to fulfill his promises and implement all his political plans unscathed, this solution may be viable due to the amount of money Indonesia will then have, but if not, the uphill battle for West Papua may continue without a light in sight of the dark, long tunnel.

Hypocrisy, Hitler and West Papua

INDONESIA-PAPUA-PROTEST-ANNIVERSARYHaving recently seen the ‘Free West Papua Campaign’ Facebook page I felt like I have lost almost all my faith in the ability for people in sniffing up things that don’t add up. The Facebook page claims that the Indonesian government considers the people of West Papua less than human and that they are currently performing genocide in West Papua. This critique is not on the West Papua issue but rather the Facebook page.

My rage mostly comes from the comments section. Those who comment are mostly westerners who claim Indonesia is a sick country and needs to be sanctioned. How dare they say this? They claim that ALL INDONESIANS ARE RACIST. Emphasis on ALL. To make this worse when I visited their Facebook pages many of them were from America. I love America and a few of my close friends happen to be American but in all honesty, America has actually had a history of racism. Now history is history as everyone says but for them to call ALL Indonesians racist, that is racism. So there is some hypocrisy going on in there and to top it all off I am absolutely sure they know nothing about Indonesia and its people, this I am sure of because you would have to live in a country to understand its people. Moreover, Indonesia is one of the most, if not the most, culturally diverse country in the world which means that the people, from different backgrounds, tend to react differently to certain issues and events.

On a different note however I decided to look into this issue and what I found out was quite astonishing. There is an element of racism in West Papua between the locals and the Indonesian army. This however, is racism based on class, or so I believe. The locals of West Papua are of lower class and they are less modern when compared to the people of Jakarta. It is true there have been murders that have been possibly covered up however, pictures featured in the Facebook page looked as if they were not real.

Firstly, it is obvious that the Facebook page is propaganda. It does not take a genius to understand that. From this alone, we can know that the information given in the Facebook page is not 100% genuine. Why? Because the point of a propaganda is to appeal to the human emotion. During times of war, propaganda appealed to the nationalistic side of people, their pride, and a sense of worry towards the next generation. This time around however, it is appealing to the ‘humanity’ of the people. Now here is the interesting bit, the people who made this Facebook page are very smart. They are not bored old farts who decided to create a Facebook page using false information (though the information was blown out of proportion but again, it is not uncommon in propaganda).

The Facebook page owners have used the word ‘genocide’ so many times that it may soon become trite. This however is not done because there actually was genocide happening in West Papua but because they were trying to create a connection to Hitler’s Germany. The word ‘genocide’ is not the only thing that gets people to put Hitler’s Germany side by side with Indonesia. Another thing is the shipload of photos with people of the army or police (in short, people with a uniform).

Secondly, we are currently living on what people call the digital age. This would mean that fabricating images is so easy that anything online needs to be questioned before believed. Since the Facebook page has a vested interest (however noble it is) I will not have a hard time believing that many of the photos are fabricated.

Lastly, and to top off the perfect recipe of fooling the masses, an outcry of help to someone with power. In this case the someone with power is not President Jokowi. Why? The President would have an answer to this outcry and the answer could take on multiple forms. Jokowi could say that none of the things they have said are true (Jokowi could prove this by visiting West Papue himself) and be it true or not, the truth would come out. This someone in power they have chosen is Australian PM Tony Abott. After the fiasco with Abott reminding Jokowi that Australia donated a large amount of money to Aceh when the tsunami hit in ’04, it is most likely that Tony Abott would not react to this therefore the message is passed on to the masses but the decision makers, the ‘someones’ with power, don’t actually do anything. Absolutely brilliant.

A special message to those hypocratical, racist people calling All Indonesians heartless monsters:

We are not holding guns against their heads. We are not taking away all their money, leaving them impoverished. We, as citizens, are not dropping bombs onto West Papua. You however, speak as if you have lived there. One of you said that I was a spoiled brat who lives in Jakarta but then when I saw your facebook profile you live in Michigan. How dare you speak as if you know anything. How dare you call our people opressors whereas you people know even less. How dare you compare us to Hitler, knowing well our people have had a long history of being opressed and colonised (oh wait you wouldn’t have known that because you have not bothered to do your research)

High Windows and the Apocalypse

larkin1_1680661cHaving recently found an old love of poetry, I decided to pick up my book of collected poems by Philip Larkin (one of my all time favourite poets) and in it I found a poem called ‘High Windows’. ‘High Windows’ is a beautiful piece that talks about religion, afterlife, death and the envy of the older generation of the younger generation’s sexual liberation (Philip Larkin wrote poems after WW2).

After reading the poem for the fifth time, I just sat down, stared at the ceiling and suddenly my mind was shouting so many things it was hard to hear and understand them. Having calmed down and sorted all my thoughts I came to a realization. It seems as though each new generation liberates an aspect of the previous generation. For Larkin it was sex and I believe for us its drugs (sexual liberation is also taking place in our generation with so many things on tv about sex like the hit tv series Jersey/Geordie shore to the occasional news of ‘whos sleeping with who’ in respect to celebrities. But some drugs, marijuana to be precise, has already been decriminalised whereas the age requirement for sex is still the same. Sexual liberation in the form of the LGBT movement is also present and there are still many conservative forces that are going against it.

With this thought written down on a piece of paper so I would not forget, my mind went off to another tangent. I thought of the movie ‘Left Behind’ starring Nicholas Cage. The movie is generally about the apocalypse (based on the bible) where all the ‘good’ people all get sucked up to heaven leaving all the bad ones to live out their lives on Earth.

I put two of these thoughts together to try and explain what, perhaps, the bible meant in its specific passage that was portrayed in the movie Left Behind (and put comedically in ‘This Is The End’). Each new generation periodically liberalizes its norms. Marx tells us that religion is a conservative force that prevents change in both people and society and like and therefore it has many rules (just as any other religion).

What if the bible did not really mean the ‘good’ suddenly disappeared leaving the bad. Good and bad is very subjective and what was perceived good and/or bad back then may be deemed differently now. We also know that sometimes holy scripts do not literally mean what they have written but rather it is written in some form of poetry or literature with metaphors. Now what if rather than the sudden dissapearance of these people from the face of the Earth, the bible meant the dissapearance of the morals it deems to be ‘good’. Since every new generation liberalizes the previous one of a certain aspect, it would eventually reach a point where we get rid of these rules and regulations, this notion of bad and good, and perhaps that is what the bible means by the apocalypse. The disintigration of all of its morals, so to speak.