Out of the many home zones I have, Indonesia is a unique one. Pluralism though exclusivity and naïvety, contrast and contradiction though unity, egoism though smiley faces, beautiful nature though ignorance and exploitation.
Whenever I visit Eastern European countries I feel the political and social resemblances to Indonesia. Let me clear something up, I don’t fancy hate speeches or propaganda, I just want to be honest of what I see, read, experience and think. I can clearly see mental and money corruptions, power abuse, political deceits and financial crimes everywhere in this whole world. We can always find them in Paraguay, Bolivia, Colombia, Brazil, US, Canada UK, Spain, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Hungary, Russia, Greece, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, China, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia and every other country in between. This is a nod to one of my recent favorite blogs.
Back in the 16th century, the first missionaries from Portugal and Germany found the isles that became Indonesia today, and discovered the spices and herbs that were valuable for their European cold climate. The Dutch missionaries came rather last and along with VOC (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie) or Dutch East India Company, they believed in their motto, “Gold, God and Glory”. They say history always repeats itself, well, I think colonialism is now replaced with wars and the modern governments misuse their so-called beliefs and ideologies to attack and take advantage of others.
Anyway, VOC exploited the land and the people for 350 years under the support of Dutch military and government only before it’s officially colonized by the Netherland kingdom. Japan came in the early 1940s and hit the Netherlands fall off Indonesia, it went to its allies hoping to come back and win Indonesia back. Fortunately, a ducth-educated engineer and activist, Soekarno and his friends saw an opportunity during this Second World War to seize the independency for the land, which later pronounced as Indonesia.
Indonesia had a glorious 20-30 years of development after its independency in 1945. Being the first independent country in South East Asia after Thailand (which never has been colonized in the first place), Indonesia used to helped its neighbor countries after their independence. But the rising days are limited due to the dictatorship of a certain Soeharto, he was once the president who rises the economy and education but he was also the one who got caught in the temptation of power and wealth. In his time many protesters and activists are died or disappeared mysteriously. According to the 2004 Global Corruption Report, he was the most corrupt leader of all time, with a figure between 15 billion and 35 billion USD.
Other Indonesian presidents who caught my attentions are Abdurrahman Wahid or nicknamed as Gus Dur and B.J. Habibie. Despite of Gus Dur’s belief and the fact that he was the leader of a religious giant-group, he was humble, human and fair. Indonesians are way too used to religious and ethnic discrimination under the reign of Soeharto and his army of politicians and military men. But Gus Dur stroke the first groundbreaking action and showed his Indonesian fellows that discrimination and racism are condemned. For the first time ever, the Chinese Indonesian are allowed to practice their native culture and religion customs in Indonesian soil. Chinese New Year is declared as national holiday, everyone can join the celebration and enjoy the Barongsai show and all the Chinese delicacies. Something else that is worth to mention, during that time he was almost completely blind and he did all he could for the few years he had in the presidency. In the other hand, Habibie is a world-renowned aeronautical engineer. Gaining his Doctorial degree and doing his extra ordinary scientific works in Germany, the German government granted him a German citizenship while still owning his Indonesian passport and despite of his political engagements in Indonesia . He certainly has rational minds like Gus Dur, but sadly he was more played by others to their own interests. I bet it’s really hard to govern a bunch of folks, no matter how fair or genius you are.
Today, Indonesia still has a lot of political, social and economic issues — just like other countries, I’m not tired to mention this. But the issues that Indonesia has, have their own complexity. White supremacy still has a place in the people conscious and unconscious. Hierarchy and seniority are still well-kept in everyday life. Thirst of wealth, status and ranks is dominating their sanity. You got to be someone’s kid to gain a certain job or position. You got to have a certain look and social status to access something or some places. Writing these all actually kinda suffocates me, because I don’t share the views and values, I wasn’t raised like that. Luckily for me, I know that my being and existence are not defined by locations or cultures. I am everything I think of, I read and agree of, I am my own self and my own norms. I hope wherever I go or stay or live, my self-image and principles can always help the best of me to grow.
In the next post I’ll write a list of fun and funny facts I find whenever I’m in Indonesia. I read so many blog posts regarding this and I think it’s a necessary intermezzo for this blog too.