Even the usually mild-mannered Endy Bayuni was forced earlier this week to rant against the President and his team’s egregious handling of the Coronavirus outbreak in the usually tepid The Jakarta Post.
He counseled seeking professional help instead of relying on amateurs for something as serious and critical as the matter staring us in the face.
His advice, like so many well-meaning ones, seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Or has it? One wonders.
From the inaction and indecisiveness that Jokowi practices, to the gaffes that he makes when he finally acts or speaks (example: Lat Saturday Jokowi admitted to withholding information on COVID-19 because “we don’t want people to panic”) he must have been influenced by his advisors.
Anyone that has been in leadership positions are usually surrounded by advisers and courtiers. The quality of these people, who often become the eyes and ears of the ever-busy Leader, become crucial to how he perceives the world, what informs him and subsequently, the decisions he makes.
Who are they? Few of us have the inside-track on who he trusts apart from Luhut, but if you look at who Jokowi surrounds himself with you may get a good idea of the type of people they are.
They are usually smart professionals, seemingly liberal, connected in politics and business, influential on social media and above all loyal – some say fanatically loyal – to Jokowi.
The last quality is where the double-edged sword cuts. Their loyalty blinds them to the mistakes Jokowi is making and the merits of his rivals. This loyalty also makes them drink the Cool Aid when it comes to Jokowi’s reluctance or inability to act boldly, especially in holding others in positions of responsibility to account.
The result is groupthink is of the highest harm.
Groupthink, as some may recall, was the greatest bane of Kennedy’s administration. Although Camelot was staffed by the brightest people whose IQ was off the charts, they as a group had so little diversity in opinion and viewpoint that none of the inner circle held the view that the Bay of Pigs invasion was an exercise in folly and miscalculation. been.
Groupthink, one suspects, is at work overtime in Indonesia today. Whatever Jokowi does or doesn’t do over the Coronavirus outbreak is wise or excusable because of the political complications.
No one else can do better than Pakde. So when Anies took to TV and social media to announce the initiatives that Jakarta, was making, including the closure of schools, it was dismissed as yet another antic of Anies the Sweet Talker with No Substance.
In spite of his record of failure to deliver, Anies looked decisive, he looked open and he looked like a leader when compared to Jokowi’s fumbling doesn’t not occur to any member of the Groupthink.
Their instinct is to dismiss the fact that Anies did better than Jokowi in this instance. They’ll now take to social media to disparage and scorn him. This has not been lost to Indonesia’s netizens who are slowly but increasingly wising up to their antics. hence the backlash against Jokowi’s Buzzers in social media.
This is dangerous in the extreme for Jokowi who because of the Groupthink surrounding him, would have lost his ability to sense danger.
And danger there is. The public is getting more disillusioned by the day by the culture of impunity that Jokowi has allowed to grow in his administration. You have the Health Minister Terawan who failed miserably to handle the first stages of the Coronavirus outbreak in Indonesia who has not been sacked or even chided.
You also have imbecilic officers like Siti Hikmawaty, the Commissioner of the Commission for the Protection of Children saying stupid things like a woman can get pregnant if she swam in the same swimming pool as a man, yet has not been chided or removed from office. The list goes on but the message people get is that the bad guys do not get punished or removed but allowed to fester in the administration.
Jokowi’s abysmal handling of the Corona virus outbreak also poses a political danger to him. With the national Government seemingly paralyzed by inaction and indecisiveness, the regional leaders are beginning to assert themselves in this leadership vacuum.
Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan’s announcement of school closures and his publishing a map of Coronavirus infections in the city con only be interpreted in this context.
The problem is that this Governor, who comes to power by allying himself to racist and religious extremist politicians, is starting to look like a leader.
The last thing most of us want is for Anies to come to power. It hurts all the more to realize that Anies’s gins are only possible because of the ineffectiveness of Jokowi’s leadership.
It is time that Jokowi does a reality check of what sort of advice he is getting from his advisors and whether he’s only living in an echo chamber build by Groupthink.
But here’s the irony: how will he ever know he would have to do this reappraisal, as none of his advisors will bring this up to him (and Unspun doubts that Jokowi reads this blog).
In sociology there is something called the Johari Window where one of its quadrants contains something that everyone else knows about you; butt it is something that you do not know yourself. It is the building block for Greek tragedies as heroes inexorably plunge to their fates inspite of all the signs warning them of danger.
Let’s hope this does not come to pass.