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.


Blogger Rusdy said...

"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"

I think we have to eat the humble pie and admit that democracy in itself is not going to solve nation's dis-unity problem. Yes, it is a great communication tool between our government and the general public, but I don't think it is 'the power' to unite people.

Take smoking for an example: There are more and more people that would like to breathe a clean air (why not all? funny that). If the government were suddenly enforce a policy that benefits these people, would this be a democracy for those who like life's little pleasure? There may be a practical middle ground, by using 'smokers area only' like those in airport for example. But, why the non-smokers have to pay these facilities (i.e. from tax, etc) to indulge those people that decide to take life's little pleasures?

So, in one side, people shouldn't be limited in their freedom if they choose to indulge smoking (as to limit one's freedom is not democracy). However, on the other side, non-smokers are penalised by the smokers' choice.

The above may be trivial and does not break a nation. But, what about foreign policy? Religious preferences? etc etc. 'The great US of A' is more divided politically than at any time since before World War II, may be mostly because the war itself has shifted entirely. It's people used to believe that the fight was between the 'great land' and the Soviet (or Nazi, or insert-any-baddies-here), where as now, it is a fight within itself. The fight of preferences of its own people, i.e. selfishness. Now the people of the 'great land' is busy building their own little kingdoms. So why we (Indonesians) want to follow suit?

Isn't that the most effective way to break a nation (or kingdom)? That is to break from within itself? Once a nation has lost its purpose to stay together, democracy will simply highlight the differences between its people is becoming greater. The trivial is becoming important. The non-smokers will create its own country, as they no longer see the reason why they need the smokers.

Okay, I may have gone too far. In short, in my opinion, democracy isn't it. It is the purpose of humanity that sticks them together (whether that is to fight the 'enemy' or any other 'noble' purposes). In the age of selfishness, where people think they don't need each other and simply drives each other mad, I only can say "Good luck" to those who try to unite humanity.

Shall we ditch 'democracy' then? I think that is irrelevant. The good government (along with good civilians) will be united regardless the form of the government. The government will make policy for the good of all its people, and the good civilians will submit to the government, because they trust the government. It will never exist, but hey we shouldn't stop trying...

Is there any good reason why we should be united? That's another topic, as I belive a unity based on geographical location is weak...

2:06 PM  
Blogger Indonesia Anonymus said...


Thank you for the enriching comment.
Using smoking as analogy is just excellent.

And yes, we agree with you, democracy alone is not going to solve our nation's dis-unity.

We believe Indonesia will remain together, probably not so much because of geographical reason, but more because we share the same purpose.
That's our hope.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Kamil said...

Rusdy is touching a very very important area of discussion regarding the importance of "unity" within the context of "nation".

Democracy should, at the very least, make visible opposing ideas and be used as a platform to challenge the status quo. I don't know if it's just about counting numbers and pick the winner, and let them rule over the losers. Why do we need to resort to picking "the winner's rule" just because there is a majority? Isn't a coercive imposition of anything over a minority (even miniscule) in the name of security/convenience still a form of dictatorship? If we started democracy on the ground of equality for all people, why must we end on a winner/loser situation?

I honestly believe it should never be about right or left, wrong or right. It should always be about ideas and projects. I think democracy will only work when we stop blaming others for our misfortunes/banning others from doing things we don't like.

Big countries, unfortunately, never do it right. And unfortunately, much easier said than done...


"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."

I found that quote intriguing. It opens up so many ideas for discussions hehe :)

6:56 PM  
Blogger Indonesia Anonymus said...

Kamil, great comment as always. Thank you.
To discuss further your point "Democracy should, at the very least, make visible opposing ideas and be used as a platform to challenge the status quo", then maybe right now our democracy is not doing so bad. Opposing ideas do get heard (and sometime way too much it causes confusion). We do have opposing views in the parliament and that's a good thing.

As for why the majority should hold the power, we should assume that they get the majority because we, the people, voted for them, and because we chose them, it is assumed that we would only choose what's best for us.
In practice this is not always the case, of course, but that's the idea.

10:47 PM  
Blogger Jakartass said...

He isn't coming just yet as he has to sort out the health of his citizens first.

That should ease the traffic jams somewhat .... erm ...j

3:41 PM  
Blogger Indonesia Anonymus said...

Indeed, Mr. J.
Looks like this is not the best time to be the president of the us of a.

we however feel sorry for those who are involved in planning the events for Mr. O.

This could be another post entitled "Waiting for g-O-dot..."

9:56 PM  

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