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Indonesians Very Busy People

Uton: Hey Harun, where have you been? I ask you to come over here several times…
Harun: Sorry, Pak (Sir). I am very busy nowadays.
Uton: Busy, huh? Are you busier than me?
Harun: *smiling awkwardly*

The above conversation happened several years back between Harun Al Rasyid, then was a PhD student and is currently teaching at Universitas Sumatera Utara (USU), Medan, North Sumatra, with Uton Mochtar Rifai then was a Director of World Health Organisation for Asia Pacific and is currently a Professor of Medical Science in Universitas Padjajaran (UNPAD), Bandung, West Java. Pak Uton, as we used to call him, is a father of Izzur Mochtar, a renowned Indonesian actor and a father figure of us, Indonesian students in India.

When I urge some friends of mine who are currently holding some key positions in bureaucracy or academics offices to blog, and blog in English, the same answer come up: I am very busy.

The same question with the same answer will come up whenever I ask them why they don’t write a book or just a simple op-ed piece in a newspaper.

Why Indonesians are so busy? Are they working a 24-hour a day for all week or just can’t manage their time effectively? Or is it just a pure excuse of their lethargic and laid-back habit? Or both?

If most of us are so busy and don’t have enough time to do some more useful things then why a few Indonesians whose hectic schedules are unquestionable still have more time. Why then a few people like Juwono Sudarsono, Hermawan Kartajaya, Wimar Witoelar, to name just a few, still have time to blog or write articles? Why then a person like Uton Muchtar Rifai, at the time he headed WHO, still had many times to make a lenghty talk with me and my friends an hour before he left for Vienna to attend a WHO conference?

John Esposito, in his introduction to Encyclopaedia of Modern Muslim World, an Encyclopaedia he edited, aptly said that “The most prolific person is the busiest one,” which implies that when you say ‘I am busy,” basically you are not busy. You are just reluctant to do more.

Indonesian Intelligentsia and Mass Leader

Public debates–through media, blogs, mailing list– in Indonesia nowadays crowded with around two co-related topic: (1) RUU APP (anti-pornography draft bill); banning of prostitution (and soon alcoholic drink) in Tangerang municipality; Playboy Indonesia. (2) Labor law; Papuan asylum seeker issue and Cepu oil and gas.

Concerning the RUU APP, an eminent Indonesian columnist Mochtar Pabottinggi wrote in Tempo Magazine (11/04/06) about the reasons behind the emergence of the RUU APP controversy:

“…politico-cultural history of our nation; irrationality of politics, post-Suharto politics, and the lack of competency or intellectual enlightenment on the part of many legislators who draft the bill.”

The last point of Mochtar’s commentary is interesting. So, majority of legislators who involve in drafting the anti-porn bill are stupid, that what he said.

My simple question is why the so-called ‘stupid’ legislators could get the seat in the Senayan (legislative assembly) in the first place and why the intellectuals didn’t? My immediate answer is while the former is the mass leader who enjoys living, helping and talking with the mass, the latter- the so-called intelligentsia- enjoys sitting in the ivory tower, never intended to go down the grass root and enjoys sitting in the cloudy sky and looking what’s happening below.

Democracy is about vote. And you’ll be voted by people if they know you. It’s very unfortunate to see some trends in some developing countries like Indonesia and India where the mass leaderships are dominated by those who don’t have excellence intellectual capacity.

I think it’s a wake-up call for every indonesian intelligentsia to go down to earth, talk to people, listen to their grievances beside writing an op-ed piece and book as their primary duties.

When Indonesian Gets Appreciation

Everybody needs appreciation and acknowledgment for what one has done or is doing. But Indonesians is not known for their straightforwardness. Most Indonesians, especially Javanese, are sort of reticent people. So, when a javanese girl, for example, is praised for her good looking, they’re not used to say “Thank you” like westerners do. Instead, they’d prefer to say “Ah, jangan begitu. Saya biasa saja kok.” (Don’t say that. I’m just an ordinary girl).

If you’re a westerner who just come to Indonesia, dont get surprised with that kind of response. That’s another way to say “thank you.”

But I see some changing attitude among Indonesians middle class. They tend to respond more straightforward towards any appreciation given to them. To me that’s good. Frankness and straightforward are more likeable and more ‘universal’. In globalized world, we need more ‘unified’ body language to avoid unnecesary misunderstanding.

Charismatic Leader

In the run up of his first US presidential candidate along with Al Gore, George W. Bush became the joke of many democrats who regard him as the first ever geographically challenged personality and hence doesn’t suit minimum requirement to be the president of USA, the only world superpower in the world. Moreover if compared to his opponent– Al Gore, who’ve just released his book at the time, indicating that he’s much more deserved to be the winner–Bush way behind in anything more than one. Yet, Bush now enjoys the second term of his presidency. In hindsight, Bush has something Al Gore doesn’t: charisma. What’s that?

I know, you might disagree with me regarding the charisma issue. Especially if you are a democrat or pro-democrat in spirit (in case you are not US citizen). You’re right. Many political reasons behind–local and international–his twice win. However, without any charisma involved, he wouldn’t even reach the final candidacy within Republican itself, would he?

Now, what’s charisma? It’s an aura; some say it’s God gifted attached to him/her since he/she’s born. Great personality always brings with him/her an aura, an attractiveness and mass appeal which is very hard to understand and to emulate.

You could be an expert like Stephen Hawking; a nuclear scientist, an IT genius, etc if you learn and work hard to fulfill whatever you want to be. But to be a charismatic leader– like our own Presiden Sukarno, founding father of Indonesia, Mahatma Ghandi, father of the nation of India, John F. Kennedy president of USA–is another matter. It’s not impossible to be like them, if you trying hard, although it’s highly unlikely.

And that’s why we’ve seen so many experts feel secure by taking shelter under not-so-clever-yet-charismatic leader. No body thinks Megawati Sukarnoputri is an expert; she’s even didn’t finish her bachelor studies. But look someone around her: professors, Doctors from prominent universities in the world, etc. Just like many professors and doctors such as Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz et.al under the feet of Bush and. In other words, World seems to be doing injustice as far as charisma-expertise goes: why charismatic yet dummy personality has more influence than skillful-yet-capable one? Why a hardworking person should bow under a moron feet?

Generosity and Stinginess

Last night, I was having a chit-chat with a friend about various things including junky stuffs. We also talked about human character, like is being generous or stingy a born-character or can be developed according to the circumstance we live in?

I am always of the opinion, as far as character goes, that human brings certain character with him/her since he/she was born.

Therefore, we can see the particular differences between two 5-year-old baby: while one tends to be generous and helpful, another tends to be stingy and selfish.

The question: is the stingy baby can develop into a generous adult? It depends on (a) whether he/she is aware of his stinginess; (b) whether he/she’s aware that being stingy is a bad thing and hence, regret it; and (c) whether he/she wants to get rid of it or at least change that character.

The change will very much depend on his determination and willingness. The social circumstances surround him/her, specially the close family, and the level of education he possess will help him/her to ‘reincarnate’ into a characteristically-transformed adult.***

12 thoughts on “Indonesians Very Busy People”

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