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.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


When we read about Obama being a rock-star president, we thought that was mostly in the US. But no. Mr O is coming and goodness gracious look at all the frenzy!

So let's get this straight: For those who think Obama would do things differrently from previous US presidents just because he grew up here, you may want to revisit that thought a little bit.

Yes, he lived here in Jakarta. But he was seven! And only for four years!

Here's what he remembered about his childhood in Jakarta:
"I remember those years as a joyous time, [...] days of chasing down chickens and running from water buffalo, nights of shadow puppets and ghost stories and street vendors... "[1]

About coming to Indonesia, he also wrote: "I am worried about what I will find there -- that the land of my childhood will no longer match my memories. [...] I fear it's becoming a land of strangers."

He probably would write the same thing if he grew up in Malaysia or Thailand or Vietnam.
So please. Enough about it already.

He is an American president, and he is coming to do whatever it is he has to do to benefit his country and the people who elected him. That's his job.
(This is no different from what we expect from OUR president when he travels abroad. We want him to work on things that will benefit us. After all, we elected him and pay him to work for us.)

This does not mean we dislike his visit, or dislike America. On the contrary. Indonesians love America. Oh yes.

Even the protesters who are against Obama coming.
If we scratch a little deeper we'll probably find some of them looking up Obama and America's policy in the middle east using Google (An American firm), arranging the protest via Twitter (again an American firm), get rid of their thirst after yelling 'Obama go home' by drinking Coca Cola (that's an American drink), and when finish with the protest they go home to watch American Idol on tv, or drop by at a cinema to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

Come on. Let's be honest.

Look at Indonesia now: We are a religious population in a secular society (similar to America), we pretty much accepted capitalism and free market (similar to America), the press and the media are free (similar to America), and we elect our president, governors etc directly (similar to America).

And we could argue, there is nothing wrong with all that. Things have been on the up and up for us lately. Even when America is in recession, Indonesia's economy is chugging along. Not as fast as China or India, but hey. It's still good news.

That means we must have done something right.

However, speaking of similarities, Obama also wrote in his book about America's politics:

"I find it hard to shake the feeling these days that our democracy has gone seriously awry. [...]
what's troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics [...]
we are distracted by the petty and the trivial [...]
our chronic avoidance of tough decisions [...]
our seeming inability to build a working consensus to tackle any big problem." [2]

If the sentences above remind you of how our government behave in the Bank Century debacle, then you know what we meant.

Oh yes. We are similar in that sense too. Money politics? Got that, and getting worse by the day. Politicians who make decisions not for the good of the country but for the sake of their party? Don't bother counting.

What America got, we got them too. And worse. Somehow, somewhere along the way, democracy is just not what it is cracked up to be.

So we ought to be careful, because we don't want to end up like America, described by Obama as:

"The country was divided, and so Washington was divided, more divided politically than at any time since before World War II" [3]

Obama is now struggling over a gridlock in America's political system.

That is NOT what we want from democracy. Democracy should bring out the best in us. To be the power that unites us. Empower us to make the right decision for our future.

Compared to America with its hundreds of years of democracy, we are a beginner. A novice, with a lot to learn. America's democracy has done a lot of great things, but just like everything else, it is not perfect. There are lessons to be learned here. Both from the successes and the failures. There are things that worked, and other things that did not.
For us to do the same mistake would be - well - a mistake.

So with Obama coming, we may want to also ask him: what is it that America did wrong, to reach that point? And how can we -- despite all the similarities -- avoid the same fate?

After all, as the saying goes:
"The best of friends are those who tell you not to make the same mistakes they made."


[1] Barack Obama - The Audacity of Hope, page 323-324
[2] same source as above, page 28.
[3] same source as above, page 20.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Lesson (not) learned

We regularly read the Jakarta Post and have been for a very long time. From time to time we criticized it, so it is only fair if we praise them when they wrote something nice.

It's about the Bank Century bailout scandal that now has turned into a circus.

Towards the end of the editorial, the paper wrote:

"If there is one valuable lesson from Century, it is the sad revelation that Indonesia is being led by a bunch of politicians who are opportunists at best and incompetent at worst."


Well said, Jakarta Post.

So now the next question is:
Who put this opportunists and incompetent bunch there?

Oh wait:
We have a democracy now. A free and fair election.
Oh no! We elected this people! It's our fault!

Note to self: Do not forget about this when voting next time. Do not forget. Do not.

Source: The Jakarta Post: Editorial: The fallout of the Century