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.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

We are Infidels

One day, two colleagues, call them A and B, went for a reflexology massage right after work. The place is in a walking distance from our building. It's a popular place for office workers seeking some relaxation after a hard day at work. Except that day -- The place was empty and A and B were the only clients around.
But not for long. As the masseuse started working, one man came in. Thick moustache and dressed in all white muslim outfit, he could pass as Gen. Parvez Musharaf look-alike. (You know, the president of Pakistan.)

He sat -- of all places -- between A and B. B was rather annoyed. He wanted to relax, and somehow he sensed that this man chose that seat because he wanted to start a conversation.
Sure enough, he did.

The man started with small talks, of which A and B replied reluctantly. And then the 'fun' started.
Below we gave you that part of the conversation, transcribed and freely-translated, for your convenience:

The man: So, what do you think of the indonesian playboy magazine?

(B closed his eyes. Didn't want to bother. A felt uncomfortable not to answer.)

A: Don't know. Didn't buy it. What about it?

The man: What do you mean, 'what about it?' It's pornographic ! You typical office people. Always ignorant...

A: Oh? Well, I didn't know. Why? nude pictures in it? Provocative articles?

The man: No. No nude pictures. If there was, their office would have been burned down by now.

A: Then why did you say it's pornographic?

(B sighed loudly as a show of protest. He was more annoyed now that A did not even try to end the conversation. )

The man: It's the name! The name itself is linked to pornography! How could we allow a magazine with such name in our country?

A: Just because of the name? So if the name is not Playboy, it will be ok then?

(B chuckled. He decided to play along)

B: Yeah, what if instead of Playboy, we call it Studyboy? or Workboy...?

A: Or Officeboy... Would that be ok then? Same content, just change the name?

The man started to look a little upset.

The man: Well, ok, it's not just because of the name. But it's not as simple as that.

A: What is?

The man: It's their tactics, you see. Of course they would not publish nude pictures right away. They wait. Once the people get used to the magazine, then for sure they will start publishing more and more revealing pictures.

A: So it is not pornographic now, but it MAY be in the future?

The man
: YES !

A: So we are punishing them BEFORE they commit the crime?

The man
: YES ! We can't wait until they really publish such filth, can we? This is a prevention. We don't want our kids to see such filth.

A: Can we do that?

The man: YES ! Of course we can ! And we should !

A: Can we do the same to all FPI members then? Can we arrest them all then?

(Note: FPI=Front Pembela Islam -- Islamic Defender Front, frequently described as a militant Islamist organization. In the news, it is said that FPI protested the magazine by throwing stones at its office building [1])

The man
: Why? What did they do wrong?

A: Well, don't you think it's possible that in the future they may again throw stones at office buildings, may use violence, disturbing the peace ?

The man: But you can't just arrest people BEFORE they have done anything!

A: Why? Aren't we punishing Playboy for something it has not done? Didn't you say it is prevention?

The man
: That's because we don't want our kids to see a dirty magazine !

A: Well, do we want our kids to watch tv and say: "Look, Daddy's on tv ! Look ! He is throwing stones at an office building! Wow, cool !" ?
We don't want that, do we?

The man, totally upset, got up and left. His masseuse was caught by surprise.
"Sir, you still have another 20 minutes..."

The man kept walking. At the door he looked back and cursed:
"Stupid infidels..."

When A told us the story, we had some reservations. We told him it may not be wise to challenge such character. He should think more of his own safety. He should have just backed down.

Nothing good will come out of bantering at a reflexology spa.

Then A replied: "But all I did was asking questions..."
He pointed at the transcript: "Look at it. I always put it in a form of a question." We glanced through the transcript once again. He was right.

"I was merely asking questions..."

Indonesia Anonymus will give no comment.

[1] - FPI Ngamuk, Kantor Majalah Playboy Dilempar Batu

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Mind the Zebra

Crossed a street in Jakarta lately? It's impossible, isn't it?
Everytime you cross the street, even at a zebra-cross, you pretty much roll your dice. Giving your guardian angel a hard time.
Nobody bothers to slow down to give way to pedestrians. Even at pedestrian crossings, which are there to protect us mere mortals.

Indcoup rightfully likened our traffic condition to a 'warzone' [1]. It is, in a sense.

Latief, another blogger, wrote (in Bahasa - roughly translated)[2]:

"Educated people should know that zebra-cross is there for pedestrians to cross the street safely.
Pedestrians have equal rights. Who ever said that car drivers are higher-beings compared to pedestrians?"

That after he got honked at by passing cars, when he crossed a street at a zebra-cross, in his university campus !

Looks like we are not THAT educated.

Here pedestrians don't have equal rights. Once you step out of your car and turn into pedestrians, you instantly fall down to the bottom of the traffic food-chain.

Why are we like this? Shouldn't we know better?

So we did our silly little research:

We go around to have a chat with our staff and secretaries, and during conversations casually asked them this 2 questions:

1. When you were small, what did you parents and teachers teach you about zebra-cross?
2. Who taught you to drive, and during your learning what did that person tell you about what to do when you approach pedestrian crossings?

Here is what we got:

1. We are told that pedestrians MUST cross the street at pedestrian-crossings.
2. We are told to always look left and right before we cross, and we have to wait until the street is clear before we can walk.
3. When learning to drive, we are told to watch for pedestrians.

But almost none of us were told that when we drive, we MUST stop and give way at pedestrian crossings. Almost none of us were told that when we see pedestrians crossing the street, pedestrians have higher priority.

We are shaped to think that by giving way to pedestrians we are being nice and doing them a favor.
This is not right. We give way because we have to.
Right now pedestrians are doing car drivers a favor by giving up their rights.

There you go folks. Yes, we are not THAT educated.

So we thought we should start educating our kids better about this whole crossing issue. And no education is better than continuously setting an example. So we will.
(And for some of us who have drivers, we will start educating them as well. Put this as part of their 'performance appraisals' or something).

So next time you drive and see a car stopping at zebra-cross and give way to pedestrians, please follow suit.
You'll help making Jakarta a better place to live.

And if for some craziest reason you don't feel like stopping, at least don't honk at those who do.
(Try that on us and you'll definitely get to see our middle finger.)

[1] Indcoup - Commuting in Jakarta
[2] Pikiran, Cerita, dan Perjalanan Saya - Sepi nan Sepoi di UI

Picture from Flickr: Photos from Freeflo

Monday, April 03, 2006

Garbage In, Not Quite Garbage Out

Last week Jakartass wrote about product-packaging and how it generates an incredible amount of trash [1].
There is a link to an article that asked: "One family, one month, 50kg of packaging. Why?" [2].

"it was inevitable that the 4.6m tonnes of packaging waste we throw away each year, adding around £480 a year to the average food bill, and considered by many consumers to be beyond the pale in environmental terms..."

That is in England, of course.

But it inspired us to do this experiment:

We asked all IA members to collect a week's worth of household trash and we will see how bad it is here.

In detail we did the following:
We separate our trash into organic, paper and plastic. We threw away the organic, keep the papers on one pile (we keep only the dry ones), and any kind of plastic-packaging or wrapping on another pile. We had to clean and dry them beforehand, of course.

This is not easy, you know. Unlike in Europe where people separate their trash religiously (organic, paper, plastic, can, clear-bottle, colored-bottle, battery ...), in Indonesia (or at least among us) it is yet to be a habit. Some colleagues who have domestic helps found it a hard task to tell the maids to separate the organic and the non-organic(And among the non-organic, to separate paper from plastic). Their maids thought it was a joke. Or worse, Some thought we did it on purpose to make their life difficult.

And how did we do?

In one week, on average, IA families collected 6.8 kg of packaging waste. The lowest was 2.1 kg , from a member who is single and living alone (poor soul..), and the highest was 8.4 kg, from a large family with four kids and with some extended family-members living in the same house.

Roughly, in one month we would have made an average of 28 kg of packaging waste.
(this is not scientific, of course).

Not as bad as England, but still.

We did not stop there. One colleague happened to know a scavenger who always comes around his neighborhood, Looking for anything worth picking from the neighborhood trash bins. Mostly he looks for recyclable paper or plastic-waste, of which he would clean and sell to a recycling company.

If there is one person who can tell which is worth recycling and which is not, this is the man. His name is Pak Milan. (No, he was not born there. We asked.)

So on Sunday we brought together all the waste from our experiment to our colleague's house and invited Pak Milan to pay a visit and see our trash collection.
We asked him to do some kind of 'appraisal'.

When he first saw the pile of waste - all separated, clean and dry - he was in awe.
"You all did this? Sorting your own trash? Why?"

So we explained to him about the experiment.

"My God," he said, still can't get his eyes off the piles, as if he was staring at a stack of gold, "if every house does this, my life would be a lot easier... I won't need to go through all the stinky wet garbage just to find something good..."

One of our maids (who tagged along to help transporting the trash) was in tears. If before she thought separating trash had no purpose and just a really bad conspiracy to make her life difficult, she now certainly found a purpose for it.

It can make someone's life a lot easier.

In short, according to Pak Milan, almost 100% of our paper-waste is worth taking. As for the plastic-waste, he said only about half the pile is usable. The rest even recycling company won't take them. We didn't ask further about which kind of plastic is good and not. Maybe we should have, so the next time we go shopping, we can watch out for products with unrecycleable-plastic packaging.
For now, we are happy that we are able to reduce our waste significantly, and able to recycle some of it.

Some colleagues who live around where Pak Milan operates made an agreement with him. We will keep separating our trash, and Pak Milan will come by once a week to collect them. This way we will have less trash in our bin, and Pak Milan can save a lot of his time.

Other colleagues living further away are planning to find their own 'Pak Milan' to make the same deal.

[1]Jakartass - Living in the Pack Age
[2] The Observer Magazine - One family, one month, 50kg of packaging. Why?