Unspun was agog when he came across a mention of this videoclip in Mr Brown’s Facebook newsfeed. Being in Indonesia Unspun’s used to seeing over-the-top events but this birthday party for a girl turning sweet 16 takes the cake.
(note: the person who posted this video has taken it private so you can’t view it. But you can see screen grabs of the video from this site)
Unspun’s first impulse was: “What a spoilt rich kid!” But that would have been unfair to the birthday girl Vanessa. She probably doesn’t know any better and having a silver spoon in her mouth is probably the most natural thing where she is concerned.
This reminds Unspun of a conversation he had once with a scion from one of Indonesia’s uber-rich families. When he heard Unspun lament about how ostentiously Indonesian children are being brought up these days, he sheepishly admitted that he was one of them.
“When I reached driving age my father asked me what car I would like to have,” he said. “I, of course told him I wanted a Mercedes-Benz because to me that was a car that we’d naturally select.” A Toyota, Kijang or Nissan was simply not part of the consideration.
He did say, however, by justification that his father was a pragmatist: “Son, you are enjoying this because we have money now. One day we may not have the money and when that happens just be glad that you got to enjoy what money could get you when it lasted.”
As far as I could gather, they continued to have money and he continues to enjoy the finer things that money can buy. No for him a lesson in come uppance from Heaven by striking him and his family poor.
This incident ricochets in Unspun’s mind when he was watching the video of Vanessa’s 16th birthday. There is nothing wrong in enjoying what money can bring you. And if you or your dad has nots of it, is it wrong to enjoy what lots of dough can bring you?
Is it more wrong for Vanessa’s dad to splurge on his daughter to this extent than a middle class family would celebrate their daughter’s birthday in, say, Pizza Hut? The latter would seem lavish if you are an Indonesian slum dweller. It all depends on your perspective.
Unspun‘s not so concerned about that but about whether Vanessa’s parents, regardless of their good intentions, is actually doing her a favour or ruining her life.
If she gets a birthday part of this scale and magnificence, what must her perception of the world be like? What would she expect from life?
How would she develop the compassion for other human beings less fortunate than her – and they must be legion, judging from the wealth the family must have.
How would she know who are her true friends? In the video, many of her friends were wishing her all the best in life. When you are that rich and that ostentatious about it, how would you know if they are hanging out with you for your money, the “prestige” of being seen with the privileged or really for your character.
Speaking of character, how does someone of that privileged league develop their characters? Hardship, deprivation, making do with less are certainly not shapers here. What are?
Another thing that Unspun‘s curious about is how this Vanessa would cope if, for some reason or another, the family’s money runs out? Would she be philosophical like my rich friend’s father or be unable to cope, should her life be stripped of money and its trappings?
Is there grist for the mill here for well-heeled Indonesian parents or is Unspun missing the whole point because he belongs to the hoi polloi?
Has the ever fascinating Elizabeth Pisani bitten more than she can chew in her latest posting in Portrait Indonesia?
In a provocative headline she posits that Indonesian kids don’t know how stupid they are and the supporters and detractors are piling up in the comments section.
Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Pisani’s analysis of the PISA tests, the picture that emerges is rather dismal for Indonesia: Indonesian kids are doing very badly in simple maths and science questions but they are blissfully unaware of how the education system is failing them.
So, are Indonesian kids getting stupider, so stupid that they don’t even know that they are getting stupid?
Indonesian kids don’t know how stupid they are
Spotted on a classroom wall in South Sulawesi
Four cars have different engine capacites:
Which of the cars has the smallest engine capacity?
It’s not a trick question. But over 75 percent of 15 year-old school children in Indonesia do not have the mathematical skills to answer it correctly.
Every three years, Indonesia’s education system goes through the ritual humiliation of the PISA tests, comparing the performance of 15 year-olds in 65 countries in reading, maths and science. Indonesia has more teachers per student than most much richer countries, and an amendment to the constitution guarantees that 20 percent of the national budget is spent on education. And yet the 2012 PISA results, released this week, show that Indonesia ranked at the bottom of the heap in maths and science, and did only marginally better in reading.
For the rest of the article read here.
There are few doctors I would trust. many of them seem so impersonal, money grubbing , do not respect the patient enough to explain their diagnoses and prescriptions and some are downright plain incompetent.
Then there is the issue of the medical mindset itself. In Indonesia many of the doctors approach infections and diseases as if they can nuke the hell out of them with antibiotics.
So it was a great delight when I came across a doctor who was great not only as a professional but as a person as well.
As a professional he was trained in Western medicine, but then branched out to learn Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture. So when treating you he would explain a symptom from the perspective of Western medicine and then from the perspective of TCM. He would usually prefer TCM methods of acupuncture and herbal brews for chronic symptoms but was not so purist that he wouldn’t prescribe some antibiotics if the need was there.
As a person he was fabulous. Always chirpy and positive he would chat with you on many things when he was treating you. Through him I learned much about how the body works and what to take and not to take. We also shared some common hobbies – photography and traveling. The last time I saw him he said he used to work continuously but of late he’s learned to scale bak a bit and spend some time travelling. He was the happier for that.
He was also fit. I would bump into him at Pacific Place because he was working out at the fitness centre there. Physically he looked the picture of health.
He was also compassionate. His practice was so successful that getting an appointment with him was very difficult. New patients have to wait about 3-6 months before they could get an appointment because he would spend at least an hour finding out about their state of health.
Yet if there is a real need he would also ways find the time to treat you. When my mother visited and fell ill I texted him and he called us over that morning so he could treat her.
He was a great man and it seemed that the world was his oyster. Life, however, doesn’t always stay with the deserving.
He died of a heart attack last week while exercising at home on an stepper. He was 39 and apparently had no record of cardiac disease.
RIP Dr Alvin Indradjaja. We all miss you and remember you.
It appears that the identity of Jilbab Hitam, the nom de plume of a putative ex-Tempo reporter who caused an uproar in the Indonesian online and journalism communities when he accused Tempo and its editors of trying to shake down Mandiri in a posting in Kompasiana.com.
That posting has been taken down long ago but in another posting in Kompasiana by Sutomo Paguchi who describes himself as a citizen journalist in Padang, and advocate, a nonpartisan and who writes for recreational purposes, he claims that Jilbab Hitam has been identified as an ex-Detik.com reporter who had been dismissed for shaking down Karakatau Steel when it had its IPO.
The author also posts a press release, apparently from the writer’s workplace IDEA Group, saying that the writer has admitted to being Jilbab Hitam. They said they were not involved in the authorship of the controversial article and that the writer has left its employment.
All very good. But that hasn’t stopped the rumour mill from trying to hunt down what it perceives to be the true motive of Jilbab Hitam. The speculation was that he was paid to do the hatchet job. But by whom?
Nobody is naming any names yet but one or a few will probably crop up soon.
Strange things are happening on the Net in Indonesia.
The latest is the kerfuffle on Twitter yesterday after a putative ex-Tempo journalist with the nom de plume Jilbab Hitam wrote in a blogpost accusing Tempo and the other large newspapers of systematically extorting money and being in collusion with vested powers.
The post was taken down from its blog. It appeared briefly in Kompasiana and then was taken down. A copy now resides in Rima. news (click here). The articles named names, some of which are the most respected in journalism; made accusations and also dragged in a prominent ex-journalist turned researcher as well as a columnist turned researcher.
Reaction to the posting has been mixed but noisy. Some jumped straight away to condemning the accused prominent media and journalists. Others claimed it was an act of fitnah (libel). Others too the cautious time-will-tell route and asked the media houses named to tell their side of the story, even against an anonymous writer.
In an era when the even the highest institutions of law such as the Constitutional Court are enmeshed in allegations of corruption, one does not know what to believe.
Similarly confusing and seemingly improbably was an article in Kabarnet yesterday where the head of the Anti Corruption Commission (KPK) Abraham Samad apparently railed and threatened President SBY with arrest. Kabarnet quoted a Twitter account apparently belonging to Abraham Samad, but the article did not say whether it tried to verify that the Tweets were from Abraham Samad or whether his account was hijacked.
These are strange days on the Net, that was once supposed to unleash an era of openness and transparency now pulls a veil of confusion over its Netizenry. What is one to make of these stories?
In Joshua Oppenheimer’s incredible documentary The Act of Killing, Indonesia’s former vice president Yusuf Kalla, regarded by many here as a saner voice than most of the politicians, delivers a mind boggling speech to a gathering of the Pancasila Youth.
The Pancasila Youth is a paramilitary organisation that grew from a motley collection of semi-official gangsters that did the wet work for the Indonesian military against the “Communist” Chinese Indonesians in North Sumatra during Suharto’s New Order.
Kalla told an enthusiastic audience that Indonesia needs premans (gangsters) because without them the nation would be run by only bureaucrats, who couldn’t get many things done. But preman are men of action who could get things done in Indonesia, he said to laud applause from the crowd.
He also paid lip service to the “roots” of the term preman which he and the gangsters all claim comes from the words “free man”, an insinuation that they are their own people, independent from the dictates of others. Indeed, on one level they are right. The word comes from the Dutch vrijman (‘free man’) .
But that is where the romance of the pre man, or free man ends. The fact is that they “existed in the grey areas where they treaded within the inside and outside of law. Whilst they were admired due to their autonomy, they were also feared by the locals due to their connections to the authorities.” In other words running dogs of the Dutch against their own people and because they serve a purpose to the powers that be are tolerated and even encouraged by government officials.
If you delve into the Wikipedia definition further it gets interesting:
A preman is a member of an Indonesian organized gang, encompassing street level criminals up through crime bosses. Premans are often perceived negatively throughout Indonesian society due to associations with violence and criminality. This root word is derived from a term which describes the “confluence of state power and criminality”.However, organized crime in Indonesian has a more enduring an complicated history, as the confluence of crime syndicates with perceived legitimate political authority has a history extending as far back as the Medang Kingdom. While associated with brigandry and theft, Indonesian crime syndicates have periodically acted as enforcers to maintain authority and order. The roles of the jago or jawara were particularly important during the Indonesian Revolution, as they often adopted political roles that helped consolidating the power of local authorities. Despite their significance to Indonesian history, syndicates are universally marginalized due to associations with violence and social illegitimacy.
And when it gets to the etymology of the word it get’s even more interesting:
The word jago literally means a rooster and refers to a type of strongman that exists as a part of the everyday life in urban and rural areas of Indonesia. The jago is a social and political actor in both recent and more distant history of Indonesia. In Indonesian popular culture, the jago is often romanticized as a champion of the people whose acts of violence are motivated by a deep sense of justice, honour and order.
The preman is the modern form of the jago. This word originated from the Dutch term vrijman (‘free man’) which later morphed into preman, referring to a new breed of urban jago who “is not in the service of the Dutch East India Company, but has permission to be in the Indies, and carries out trade for the sake of the VOC,”:9:58–59 The vrijman, orpreman existed in the grey areas where they treaded within the inside and outside of law. Whilst they were admired due to their autonomy, they were also feared by the locals due to their connections to the authorities.
What all this means is that Indonesian leaders have been using these quasi-official gangsters to do their bidding for hundreds of years. It is baked into the DNA of the ruling class in Indonesia.
Hence we have Kalla and now Home Minister Gumawan Fauzi legitimizing and even praising the FPI, who are no more than common thugs in Islamic clothing.
Indonesia has progressed far since the fall of Suharto in 1998, but when it comes to the preman its leaders have not moved an inch from the Medang Kingdom. It is feudal, it is wrong and it is disgusting.
But Kalla remains a popular figure among many in Indonesia who view him, in the face of SBY’s namby pamby image, as a decisive doer. And Gumawan, who’s act of praising the FPI as an asset to the nation is as reprehensible to praising Hitler’s Brownshirts in Germany today, is still keeping his job without even a slap on the wrist.
When will the populace rise up and say: Enigh is enough?