Indonesia Anonymus

We are a group of Indonesians, ranting about our beloved country. This blog is a result of many people grumbling about many things in many ways.
Feedback: indonesia.anonymus at gmail dot com


Anonymus is the Latin word for anonymous, the correct English spelling. The Latin spelling, however, is traditionally used by scholars in the humanities to refer to an ancient writer whose name is not known, or to a manuscript of their work. Read more at Wikipedia.

Our blog in Bahasa Indonesia (but rarely updated) can be found here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

An email from MH

Recently, we received an email from MH. No, no. Not Michael Howard, the British politician. But close enough. MH is a UK national living in Jakarta. He/she wrote us in response to our blog here.
We like the email so much we thought we should share it with you. So here it is in its entirety, with our comment here and there to explain to you why we find this email interesting.

Dear Indonesia Anonymus,

I really enjoy your blog. However, in your latest posting I think you may be too hard on Indonesia.

I am a European (UK national) living in Indonesia. One of the reasons I feel lucky to live here is that the chances of being victim of a crime are far fewer here than in my home country.

This is new. At least to us. I don't know about you, but we never thought Jakarta would be safer than London for example. For some of us, the first reaction was:
"Well, if he is one of those expats who live in a big house (like this one) with 24 hour security guards and getting around town in a chauffeur-driven car, it is easy to feel safe. At least safer than being in a London tube.." But read on, because MH is actually more down to earth than that.

In your blog, you compare Vienna with Jakarta, and express admiration for Daniela's freedom to display her fruit in front of her store, while in Jakarta people would probably steal them straight away. You claim it is all about trust. But, is it? I would say that it is rather to do with the poverty in which many of Jakarta's residents live. If there were as many homeless, jobless people, living on less than a dollar a day, on the streets of Vienna as there are in Jakarta, Daniela's store would be burnt down by now.

This is where we part ways a little bit with MH. Not that we disagree. Poverty may have something to do with the crime rate in one way or another, but being dreamers as we are, we would like to still believe that poverty does not make criminals. You see, we did some pro-bono work with a local NGO a while ago to help people living in slums (small work, obviously not enough to make a difference) so we know some people that fit MH's profile above: People who are homeless, jobless and living on less than a dollar a day. They live in slums, making a dismal living collecting cardboards from trash. But they are not criminals.

So then why don't we feel safe?
Maybe this is the problem: law enforcement. This is where our trust is getting shaky. Wouldn't you agree? So it is still a matter of trust, but not among us, but towards the law enforcement. (Remember the cow joke: Lost a cow + report to police = lost two cows. Not a good math. And not funny either to some of us. Especially to the one whose spouse is a police officer..)

MH continues:

My own experience tells me that Indonesians (despite the corruption in high places) are generally law-abiding people. While living in the UK I was robbed of money and a TV when my apartment was broken into. While living in Barcelona, Spain, I was robbed at knifepoint in broad daylight in a city park, and in Rome, Italy, my partner was mugged right outside the main door to our apartment.

I have lived in Jakarta for several years and have never been robbed or assaulted (although a young fellow did once try to pick my pocket on the train to Bogor). This, despite the obvious wealth gap between myself, an orang putih, and the Jakarta poor.

People here often wonder if I am 'takut' living in Indonesia. On the contrary, it is far safer being an English(person) in Jakarta than an Indonesian in London (or even Vienna, I imagine).

Well, we won't disagree on this one either. How can we, when MH said all this good things about Jakarta.
So yes, MH, maybe you are right. It is safer being an English person in Jakarta than an Indonesian in London or Vienna. We have been to both places and we noticed a 'xenophobic reception' in certain areas of the city just because of the color of our skin. Not in majority of course. You in Indonesia on the other hand, will receive a 'positive discrimination' just because of being - in your words - an 'orang putih'.
(We are not saying that 'positive discrimination' is a good thing though.)

MH email ends there.

Thank you MH, for reminding us that we may have been too hard on ourselves. But maybe it is necessary. Maybe we need to be harder on ourselves, in order to move forward. We certainly see some people around us who do not push themselves enough. People who do not try hard enough, do not do enough, do not dream enough.
So maybe we should be even harder on ourselves in the future.

See it as our relentless passion to build a better Indonesia.

Feedback: indonesia.anonymus at gmail dot com


Blogger Nad said...

thanks for this post! it has good after-reading effect. see, i shared the fine points raised both by you and m.h.; oscillated a little among the arguments, and found solace in your synthesis. happy holidays!

8:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i guess generalizations, while useful, are not possible in most cases. haha that is a generalization in itself

5:50 AM  

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