Indonesian Culture

indonesia culture

Muslim and Poverty

Why Chinese Indonesians are generally richer than non-Chinese? Andreas Harsono, a journalist, himself a Chinese, has the answer as reported by Jawa Pos newspaper yesterday (May 11), “Because Chinese are minority.

And minority everywhere tends to work harder than the majority.” He further elaborates that Javanese are hard-working community outside Java island where they’re in minority. The same is true to other ethnics like Bataknese in Jakarta, Madurese in Kalimantan, Padangese in Java, etc.

Granted. I agree to some extent. But as we know, a person is not only affiliated to particular ethnic. He or she also belong to a particular religion be it Islam, Christianity, Hinduism or even atheism. The question is how far is it that a religion of reference could influence his or her mindset towards life other than being minority-majority thing?

Have a look at India, on poor and rich issue, most observers see thing generally on religous based because they cannot analyse or hard to analyse it through ethnicity perspective. So, when Indian media or columnist say thing like “minority community” they mean Muslim. If we follow this logic, the paradox comes up: Indian Muslim is the only minority who are poor. Very poor compared to the majority which are Hindus. And Hindus majority generally outperforms the Muslim minority in every fields (see Rafiq Zakaria’s Indian Muslim Where Have They Gone Wrong?)

If you agree with this minority-on-religious-based logic, the question is what’s wrong with Indian Muslim? And with the same token, the question can be raised to Indonesian Muslim as well: what’s have gone worng with them? Why they cannot outperform the minority? Why Indonesian Muslim are generally not wealthy and outperformed by minority community—Indian term—in almost every fields?

Is this something to do with religion we follow, with ethnicity we belong, with certain mindset within the so-called pribumi that we attach to?

You tell me.

Why Ghost Blogger?

As I said earlier, I know the blogger world the first time through CNN which covered the Baghdad Blogger extensively during the early Iraq War II. At that time, i signed-up to but updated it occasionally and a bit reluctantly.

I fully understood then why the Baghdad Blogger used pseudonym rather than his actual name. living in under a tyranny leader is not an easy one to deal with or to freely express your opinion. especially when your thought is about something the ruler might not like it. then come the Riverbend a female blogger from Iraq.

she also uses a pseudonym, or ghost name if you like. and again, it’s understandable, considering the rough and tougher time in iraq now, even without Saddam Hussein.

What i dont understand is those bloggers who live in a free democratic country like in the US or in Indonesia, why on earth they use pseudonym? what they’re afraid of? and why they use the ghost name in the fir

Bachelor Degree for President and the DPR’s Laptop place?

In political arena every move becomes political, or considered to be political if it’s not in line with certain interest of particular segment of political elites. That’s exactly what’s happening currently in Indonesian politicosphere and is being contentiously debated in the blogosphere.

A contentious debate over the current plan of DPR (Indonesia’s MP) to amend the constitution to make a Bachelor degree a prerequisite for a presidential candidate to be eligible for nomination by any political party has sparked a furore. And that’s understandable considering the fact that one of the would-be presidential candidate from PDI-P party, former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, has never finished her bachelor degree.

Terkini believes this move as a means to stop Megawati from the next 2009 general election candidacy. M. Alfian Alfian in his long analysis concludes that a Bachelor degree should not be a requirement for a presidential candidate as it will only create another corrupt practices of another kind: the long line of politicians who want to seek the Degree and some “malicious” universities who are more than willing to accomodate the “market demand” through “special channel and special price.” Qui est votre agrees..

One who agrees with the plan argues that if Bachelor degree becomes a precondition to be a head of district, it’s natural that the same rule should be applied to a presidential candidate as well.

Why Ghost Blogger? (2)

In responding to my posting Why Ghost Blogger?, Nad’s Note turns heavily “philosophical”. :) He argues that the purpose of her being pseudonymous is, in her own words, “to minimize such tendency…” i.e. any bias of the writer concerned. Visit her good blog for full understanding of her raison d’etre

Well, first of all thanks to Nad’s very insightful explanation about the ghost blogger world. Despite I am not so sure whether her rationale is typically hers or represent other bloggers, at least I believe she’s voiced her very interesting point of view of her own.

Secondly, when I wrote the piece what I had mind was not about Blogger Indonesia, because Indonesian bloggers mostly tend to blog with full personal clarity: their identity, their full name and even their background (academics and family).

I saw, interestingly and strangely, ghost or pseudonymous blogger phenomenon more as a western blogger tendency. Especially those who blog on current events_politics or religious matters. If you browse the internet, you’ll find many of them. Including some westerners who blog on Indonesia like Jakartass and Indcoup.

I’ve got a ‘strange’ experience when an Australian links one of my blog to his own. once I knew it, I link his blog back in my blog–this is one of unwritten conventional rule in blogger world: whenever someone link your blog, you’re obliged to link it back. To my amazement, he emailed me and asked me “not to link his blog”.

Thirdly, blogger is an ego-driven medium, a self-publishing means and a self-satisfying “lust” of own-self existence. Let’s be honest about it. You feel satisfied and ecsatic when your posting got much attention and for the sake of that some bloggers even ready to “sacrifice” his “niche” by attaching unnecessary and irrelevant picture; you’re happy when your blog being linked by many other blogger, hence your blog rating are getting higher; and unhappy when your post and blog in the low-end. From these premises, the existence of ghost-blogger is self-contradictory.

Fourthly, so, what’s left to explain why someone need to be a ghost or pseudonymous? It’s harsh to say that they’re just not gutsy enough to show their head hidden under the beach sand. I dont want to be judgemental to say that they’re a bunch of cowards who want to say anything without any need to be accountable to whatever they’ve said.

But one thing is clear, by being ghosty, pseudonym or anonym or whatever, they’re lacking in credibility. For me, credibility in virtual world is a combination of at least four things: clarity of our personality, our deeds, our words and our consistency of the last two points. So, to sum it up, I tend to agree to disagree with Nad’s on this point. :)

Why They Blog Anonymously and We do not

I keep wondering a ’little and trivial’ thing prevails in blogosphere: the tendency of westerners to blog anonymously; and the fondness of us, Indonesians, to blog otherwise ofcourse with few exception here and there. For various reasons Indonesian bloggers tend to make their blogs and their names known in the google world and are proud to see their traffic achieves PG (page ranking) four plus.

Non-Indonesian or westerners, however, seems to be satisfied if their blog contents are known more than the persons behind those writings. Just a few examples, almost 80 percent of expat blogs in Indonesia are pseudonymous. Conversely, I hardly found any Indonesian bloggers whose pictures, true full names and CVs are not attached in their blogs.

Interestingly, most westerners who blog pseudonymously, or ghostly if you like, are blogging serious topics— politics, culture, current affairs, religion sometimes with bluffing and bashing flavour attached to it— a kind of topic that require us to show our true face or name to assure that you have a good and honest intention of making criticism and a symbolic gesture that you as an individual is open to dialogue. There are few example of Indonesian bloggers who follow this trend in its entirety which are not worth mentioning here.

I am proud that Indonesian bloggers blog bravely; expressing their critique frankly and showing their identities at the same time to tell the one or institution they criticise that they are willing to take the risk and responsibility, if any, of whatever they are saying. And if you do not have the gut to criticise someone or an instititution (government or not) without hiding your true identity my little opinios is: Just Don’t Do it! That would be much better. There are many other topics that would interest readers without sacrificing your integrity and credibility.

And as far as Indonesian bloggers go, I believe the trend of showing their true identity should be maintained, especially whose blogs are about controversial and sensitive issues like religion and socio-political and cultural issues.

How Important True Identity for Blogger

Since first time blogging, I discouraged anonymity and anonymous blogging. I call this attitude irresponsible – if you fear the heat dont enter the kitchen., and be a good kid. I wrote several posts on the important of clear identity for any blogger to earn credibility of whatever one writes in his or her respective blogs.

There are times when clear identity is not obligatorily required, and anonymity is forgiven and understood by the readers.

There are many instances where scientific writings/bloggings will automatically earn you credibility and honour you deserve… But a lot of examples in which writing scientifically is not enough. Readers and common sense need to know what position you stand for. Credibility more often than not is very much to do with whether there’s self-interest involve or not.

But there are times where clear identity is a must and anonymity is a waste of time:

… there’re some other topics in which clarity of identity is a must unless you’re a careless person who dont need the so-called credible ‘awards.’ What kind of topics that needs clarity of identity? (a) Religion; (b) Politics; (c) Minority/majority issue [etc]..

Even worse, anonymous blogger is a liability for bloggers as a whole as their anonymity might be used to downgrade other bloggers- with clear identity -in bad lights as it’s the case with Roy Suryo’s allegation that Indonesian bloggers are just “a bunch of liars because they are never even have the gut to use their true name.

Now, look at this article written by an apparently an Obama’s campaign volunteer. Before making his points, he starts his piece with clear identity to make his case stronger and more credible:

There has been a lot of speculation that Barack Obama might win the election due to his better “ground game” and superior campaign organization.

I had the chance to view that organization up close this month when I canvassed for him. I’m not sure I learned much about his chances, but I learned a lot about myself and about this election.

Let me make it clear: I’m pretty conservative. I grew up in the suburbs. I voted for George H.W. Bush twice, and his son once. I was disappointed when Bill Clinton won, and disappointed he couldn’t run again.

I encouraged my son to join the military. I was proud of him in Afghanistan, and happy when he came home, and angry when he was recalled because of the invasion of Iraq. I’m white, 55, I live in the South and I’m definitely going to get a bigger tax bill if Obama wins. [….]

That’s precisely the point I made here when I said:

…neutrality & objectivity is a one way ticket towards credibility. Yet, both are an impressionist in nature. Readers need to be convinced that you’re in a neutral position when writing on those topics.

How do readers know that you are in a neutral position? The answer is your identity. Generally, neutrality and objectivity very much related to self-criticism (against your own religion, community, political party, etc).

So, when someone known for his/her closeness to a political party, say PKS, and he/she criticises some of PKS’ policy, certainly his/her criticism has the merit to be heard; and obviously such kind of criticism has credibility. On the contrary, anonymity on this regard will have many interpretations: one migh think that you are from some other political party and hence it’s common practice to attack other parties.

Laptop and Indonesian MPs (DPR)

Despite less significant, the issue of DPR (Indonesia’s MP)’s plan to buy a laptop for each of DPR’s member assumes a bigger interests among Indonesian blogosphere. No less than 160-odd postings has been dedicated talking about this issue.

The public debates on this issue focus mainly on the necessity and the price. On price, for example, Government will allocate IDR 21 million (around $2,100) per laptop for 550 DPR member. Almost all bloggers disagree with the laptop-for-DPR and question the wisdom behind this unnecessary move. Just Ngeblog wonders why does the government spend people’s money so easily for such a waste? Rahning, Pande Baik, Rihart and many others think likewise.


According to the latest news, the DPR has canceled the tender for the laptop purchase putting an end to the public outcry against what the DPR speaker, Agung Laksono, has said previously that the plan would go on on the ground that it’s a part of APBN budget.

Originally posted for Global Voices Online

Indians Neutrality and Us

I see Indian people are more neutral and knowledgeable than some of Indonesians in commenting on international political issues. A day when the US invaded Iraq and filling up media headlines around the world, a shop owner named Sanjiv which has not even finished his undergraduate study said angrily to me about the arrogance of US and how the world should act in unity. Because he feel, when the sole superpower now has easily and unilaterally invaded Iraq, then it’ll happen to other countries later, etc etc.

Almost the same disapproval came from other neighbors and my college students, all are Hindus. Indonesians, on the other hand, are much more divided. Interestingly the division is much based on the line of religion: with due respect to those who hold clear neutrality and common sense, a Christian or non-Muslim tend to support anything done by the US and Israel (breaching the international law regardless). While Muslims tend to go against the US and support fully whatever is done by Arab countries especially Palestinians, Iraq and now Lebanon. See for example two comments on my post here.
One comment by Patung (obviously a pseudonym and apparently a Christian and one of Indonesian most active anti-Islam blogger) on current topsy-turvy in the middle-east:

I also love Indonesia. Because it’s far away from Hamas and Hezbollah, and Iran and Syria, and other terrorist groups and countries (though Indonesia has its own terrorist groups) which refuse to recognise Israel’s existence and continue to launch attacks against it. Israel has the right to defend itself which is exactly what it is doing. Those who refuse to make peace with it have to learn a lesson, unfortunately.

And another comment by Vnuz (apparently a Muslim) on my post here

Who is terorist??
I just can say it loud…
US and Israel!!!

Now, on current middle-east crisis between Lebanon-Israel, here are what Indian people (all are Hindus and one Christian, judging from their names) had to say in Letter to the Editors of the Hindu newspaper:

This refers to the editorial “The international community must act” (July 22). Innocent Lebanese civilians killed and injured in hundreds, hundreds of thousands displaced, and infrastructure destroyed – this is Israel’s reaction to the abduction of two soldiers. No country is in a better position than the U.S. to halt the destruction of Lebanon. Such global indifference to the plight of the Lebanese is unfortunate.

D. Srinivasa Rao &
P. Jitender Rao, Hyderabad

* * *

Israel’s use of force against Lebanon is wholly inappropriate, unacceptable, and disproportionate. Whatever the provocation, responsible nations are expected to act in a manner that promotes stability. The attack is no longer an act of self-defence but an attempt to destroy a nation. Even if Hizbollah is wrong, nothing can justify Israel’s blanket bombing of Lebanon and the total disregard for civilian lives. It is important to fight terrorism, but not with terrorism.

T. Marx,
Karaikal, Pondicherry

See more other letters here

Apparently, as far as judging local, national and international event, we need to learn much from the Indians: Judge anything based on conscience and common sense. Plus: be well-informed first.

Independent Indonesia

61st Anniversary of Independent Indonesia
August 17, 2006 is the 61st anniversary of Indonesia’s independence day. We celebrate this day with joy every year. The context of celebration is we have freed ourselves from the colonialism, occupation and justice inequality of one country (Netherlands) against another (Indonesia). We gain this freedom not for free; it’s a hard-fought efforts and hard-earned independence.. Some lessons we learn after 61 years we drove the Dutch away from Indonesia.

The idea among common people to resist and drive the colonialist and occupier away is that (a) our country is rich with natural resources and we got nothing as the Dutch robbed them all; (b) all people will get equal opportunity to education, the mother of all progress and development.

The facts after 61 years: (a) we are still poor and is still named developing, some say underdeveloped country with continuous ’awards’ as one of the most corrupt country in the world.; many if not all the so-called natural resources are also subcontracted to the MNC’s company; (b) education subsidy is sinking further which almost close the opportunity for the poor to have decent education to enable them to make decent living.

So, the point left of being independent from another country’s occupation for most poor Indonesians is only the sense of pride: that we enjoy freedom to talk everything as far as it’s not against the law; that we enjoy to do whatever we like to do without any fear of being imprisoned; that we are free to create a job for ourselves and employ others.

But among the poorest of the poor— that is 48.8 percent of 225 million population— do they enjoy all the said points at the time when they dont have even something to eat or to drink or shelter to sleep? Are they able to enjoy freedom of speech when their kids are crying for not having their meals?

Government should and must do all it can to improve the bad condition most people are suffering now. And people like us, you and me, should and must contribute however little our contribution might be for the betterment of the poor by (a) living humble and avoid extravagant lives; (b) avoid unnecessary spending for gizmos and shopping and give it away instead for the needy.

When the rich lives a humble live, the poor will benefit; the money will trickle down to them. And none feel he/she is rich until one is able to look down to those who are less fortunate.

Note: this post was written on August 2006

Indonesian as Celebrities Worshipper

A staff in KBRI (Indonesia embassy) New Delhi laments about our embassy officials ignorant towards what has been achieved by his 16-year-old son in tennis. No appreciation of verbal kinds, not to say in terms of financial assistance, etc. On commenting to his complain I say that our officials abroad or in Indonesia are not known for their appreciation towards Indonesia’s best sons and daughters who stand out among the rest of the world in the field of sport or science.

And that lack of appreciation disappoints many outstanding sportpersons. Some of them went abroad not only for better financial gain but also for getting some kind of appreciation they truly deserve.

One might remember that Susi Susanti is the first Indonesian who gave Indonesia an olympic gold medal in Badminton. What she got at the time she won it? Taufik Hidayat, the badminton world champion, is the most recent case in which our best sportperson doesn’t get due recognition he truly deserves and then often tempts to go abroad.

In the field of science, social and applied science alike, the appreciation is getting worse and that makes some of our best persons reluctant to come back.

I don’t want to compare Indonesia with some developed countries where outstanding sportpersons and scientists got what they want: money and appreciation.

Let’s take a few example from our neighboring countries the condition of which is not far off from ours: India.

1. When an athlet got an olympic silver medal (bronze?) last year in shooting, what he got was plenty: (a) knight awards from government plus plenty of cash; (b) plenty of advertisment offers from many companies.

2. Football is “second class” sport in India. Yet, India’s football captain, Baichung Bhutia, got plenty of ads offers from soft-drink companies and special awards from government too.

3. Among top five adsvertisement stars, four are cricketers (cricket is the most favorite sport in India) and only one is actor and that’s Shakhrukh Khan.

Now, have a look at Indonesia. Almost all top ads stars are celebrities (model, acress, singers, etc) and none of them are sportpersons, not even our Taufik Hidayat, the best badminton player in the world.

All above cases only means that it’s we, government and people, who dont want to give a proper appreciation to our best and outstanding personalities and instead we give extravagant and too much adulation toward individuals whose niche and advantages are only in his/her physical appearance; not his/her brains.

In other words we are a nation who prefer to worship the cheap flesh rather than the meritious and precious brain. Or please correct me if I am wrong.