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.
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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.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Split the Waffle

A country is about to split in two, and guess what: nobody thinks it's a tragedy.
Some even think it's a good idea. How can that be?

What country are we talking about? Yes, you got it: Belgium.

Background story in short:

The country's population has two major linguistic lines, the French-speaking Wallonia (the Walloons) in the South and the Dutch-speaking Flanders (the Flemings) in the North.
In the nineteenth century, the Francophile political and economic elite treated the Dutch-speaking majority as second class citizens. At the end of the nineteenth century, and during much of the twentieth century, the Flemish movement evolved to counter this situation. Following World War II, Belgian politics became increasingly dominated by the autonomy of its two main language communities. Intercommunal tensions rose and even the unity of the Belgian state became scrutinized. [1]

They had a general election three months ago, and the split looks even more inevitable:

"Belgium has failed to create a government, producing a crisis so profound that it has led to a flood of warnings, predictions, even promises that the country is about to disappear." [2]

Interestingly enough, the Economist thinks it's a good idea:
"Belgium has served its purpose. A praline divorce is in order." [3]

Do we care? After all, we never discuss Belgium unless it is about chocolate, waffle or Audrey Hepburn.

But bear with us a minute: Remember a while back, when Indonesia was worried about breaking up into pieces? Remember when Acehnese 'rebel' demanded independence, then same noise came from Papua, and then the latest with the Republic of South Maluku flag incident? [4]

Do we really fancy being together, we don't want a breakup? Is it all love in our united Indonesia?

One friend who happened to be a member of parliament (at the time) once challenged us:
"If, by breaking up, the people of Indonesia can actually prosper, would you think it's a good idea?"

Tough question.

But to us that is not the real question.

The real question is this:
If we broke up into smaller countries, will we prosper? Are we going to be better-off?

We hate our answer but we will write it here anyway.
We don't think so.

Why not? Singapore is a small country, with almost no natural resources. They can pull it off. Why can't we? And we have abundant natural resources!

Because Singapore has never been under the corrupt dictatorships of Suharto.
We, on the other hand, have. Way too long. And with that, a corrupt culture was shaped. At least one generation grew up watching a corrupt government stealing people's money and got away with it. Needless to say, bad moral & ethics education flourished. It was so bad it brought the country down into one of the most corrupt on the planet.
Yes, we are corrupt. Yes, we. Us. Ourselves. Not the country. The people. Calling our country with different names and having different flags will not change that.

Breaking Indonesia into smaller countries will only create smaller rent-seeking kings or queens, or shoguns, or whatever you want to call it. We don't need a breakup to have a taste of it: Didn't you hear all the scandals occurred after the decentralization?

Belgium can afford a divorce. Its people are well-off. Even after they failed to create a government since June, public service still works: the trains still runs on time, garbage is collected, the mail is still delivered. [5] How is this possible? Good governance.

We, Indonesians, can't afford a divorce and arguably are better-off staying together.
Because we are poor.
We are poor because we can't even get our act together and create a clean government.
And without a culture of clean governance, a divorce will just make us even poorer.

So as long as we are poor, we might as well stay together.
Misery loves company.

And oh, enjoy the waffle while it is still Belgian. You may not enjoy it as much when it is called Walloons or Flemish waffle...

[1] Belgium, on Wikipedia
[2] International Herald Tribune, Sept 21, 2007, front page
[3] The Economist, Spet 8-14, 2007, page 12
[4] Antara - Kapuspen : Pembentangan Bendera RMS di Luar Perkiraan
[5] International Herald Tribune, Sept 21, 2007, page 3