Garuda’s Ari: when its OK to experience schadenfreude

Schadenfreude or, in English, epicaricacy, is mostly a guilty pleasure. That’s because it is the joy you feel at the misfortune of others.

Not much changed since the bad old days. Still soft and privileged bums on the seats of Harley Davidsons

In the case of now-sacked Garuda President Director Ari Askhara, however, schadenfreude is a legitimate and just pleasure.

Here was a man who lived a life of impunity, seemingly protected by the former State-owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno when he signed off on questionable audits of the airline’s books. (And what has Rini to say about her elevation of Ari from Garuda CFO to President Director?)

A man who brazenly sought to smuggle a stripped down Harley Davidson and several Brampton folding bicycles on the ferry flight of the A330-900 Neo from Toulouse to Jakarta, a journey he celebrated after the plane landed by riding with his Moge (motto gede = large motorbikes) cronies on onto the tarmac in an event sponsored by BMW.

And when caught red handed, he either instructed or conspired with his Corporate Secretary and spokesman Ikhsan Rosan, to lie to the media. It wasn’t even a credulous lie. Ikhsan said two employees had loaded the Harley and Bramptons onto the plane. Like employees can afford those toys for the rich.

The pity, however, was that thee Indonesian media swallowed those implausible excuses whole, and regurgitated it to their readers. There was no sharp questioning of who the employees were if any, what did Ari and the directors know and when did they know it, and how could employees even afford those toys and ever hope to get away with it if they had indeed been guilty.

Then, after Ari was sacked by current State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir, news began to emerge of his alleged mistress, a Garuda stewardess who was apparently present in the ferry flight, of her plastic surgery and how she influenced his decision to shift the Jakarta-Amsterdam flight to Bali-Amsterdam instead.

A video of his megalomaniac Soekarno-like motorcade during what appeared to be an Independence Day paraded also emerged.

 

Throughout all this Ari, apart from trying to dodge reporters, has said nothing. No remorse, no regret, no apology.

This whole episode gives rise to several disturbing questions about the elite in Jakarta and the amount of rot in the state-owned enterprise fiefdoms that exists till this very day.

What kind of self-image and environment that people like Ari live in? How do they perceive themselves? Are they so drunk on the Kool Aid that they do not know how people despise them for their ostentatiousness, of which the Harley Davidson is the most prominent emblem of entitlement.

Since Suharto days the Harley Davidson has been a symbol of thee elite. Importing the bikes then was illegal so the only way they could be brought in was if you had “backing” – New Order speak for connections. Those who rode the  Harleys were, apart from Suharto himself, military generals, police chiefs, obsequious but rich businessman and the Brahmins of the government, like heads of state-owned enterprises.

Their rides used to be escorted by the police, none of them noticing how incompatible that was to Harley’s born to be wild spirit.

Two decades on things, have changed little. It is now legal to import Harleys but probably most of the Harleys on Indonesian roads are brought in illegally and then issued with doctored road permits. There are more rich and entitled people so there are more riders but essentially it is a new generation of the same old elite.

The police escorts are still there. The elite still show off, with those loud machines as the rest of us are stuck in traffic jams. Some of these idiots also sport police look-alike designs, sirens and lights. All illegal and telegraphing a what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it attitude to the rest of us.

Do these people even realize how much contempt they attract from the rest of the population? (and here’s an idea for Finance Minister Sri Mulyani who has to increase revenue from taxes – why not have the taxman go after all the Moge riders – you’ll find that most of them have false papers because they brought their bikes in illegally and not paying any taxes).

The consoling thought about Ari’s downfall is that Erick Thohir has had the courage to lop off the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the Brahmins in the State-Owned Enterprises must be quaking in their shoes right now. They should, but are they?

Hard to tell. Would love to see a journalist do a story on whether the elite are capable of self-reflection and awareness of the environment around them. Unspun has a sneaking suspicion that many of them are incapable of this, making them unable to self-correct and change their ways.

One can hope that Erick Thohir and the Government will continue their purge of such entitled and corrupt Brahmin. Then the rest of use would be treated to an endless flow of Schadenfreude.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KPAI isn’t all wrong about PB Djarum

Something important is lost in the rancour against KPAI (The Commission for the Protection of Children) for calling out PB Djarum’s (Djarum Badminton Association) badminton auditions.

KPAI, as we know has accused the cigarette maker Djarum of using its foundation, PB Djarum (Djarum Badminton Association) to exploit children.

To be sure, KPAI has chosen its accusation poorly, using the word manipulate instead of exploitation or a more neutral used. It has caused a groundswell of opinion and invective against its stand, drowning out the one important issue that should be addressed: how should corporations discharge their Corporate Social Responsibility?

If KPAI had been more measured it could have advanced a more persuasive argument against Djarum because it does have a point. Djarum is indeed using PB Djarum to give it visibility in the youth segment where the Djarum tobacco brand has been forbidden to enter.

PB Djarum has undoubtedly contributed immensely to Indonesia’s domination of badminton worldwide/ But setting up a foundation or creating an event that is seemingly divorced from the parent brand’s activities, yet giving the brand a high visibility is one of the oldest tricks in the book of corporate communications.

Why else, you might ask, would the foundation still carry the logo and brand name of the parent brand? In this instance, you cannot look at the PB Djarum logo

Without being reminded of the tobacco company’s parent brand.

Why can’t Djarum (and other Indonesian companies). for instance, adopt the route taken by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that is in part funded by Microsoft Stock dividends. The Foundation’s logo.

And why, among all the gin joints and causes, does Djarum have to alight on a cause to do with the target demographic for continuing tobacco sales? Why can’t it, instead, channel its vast resources in, say, helping improve the lot of tobacco farming families?

Study the marketing campaigns and events of other Tobacco companies and you will see the same cynical insertion of their branding elements.

On the other hand, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation can never be accused

Can never be accused as a vehicle for Microsoft.

The problem in Indonesia, I think, is that most corporations have not thought through the role of business in helping the nation develop economically and socially.

What is their role? How should they go about it? In which causes or issues? And will they have credibility and trust if they proceed.

Many corporations Here grasp at the most convenient concept around: Corporate Social Responsibility.

It’s a concept that sounds nice but is dated and ineffective, especially during these times when trust in business is at an all-time low.

Harvard Business Professor Michael Porter have argued convincingly that CSR doesn’t quite work because it does not reconcile a business’ imperative to make profits with the need to contribute to economic or social development in the Harvard Business Review on Creating Shared Value. Here is a video of Michael Porter speaking on CSV to business leaders

To me CSV makes more sense. It posits the notion that businesses are aware that unless the communities with which they work with prosper, neither can they. As such, the corporations – because of the resources at their disposal – should take the lead in helping these communities generate economic or social value in their activities. By doing this they are effectively creating shared values.

This will help them to rebuild the trust that Business Has been losing ground on. An with this trust comes greater social capital with which they can achieve more and perform better. It’s a virtuous circle.

The KPAI-PB Djarum issue has given us a chance to reexamine and review the role of business in society, especially the businesses in controversial industries such as tobacco, alcohol, large-scale agriculture and mining. because of their huge revenues they are under scrutiny by many activists, NGOs, social organizations and regulators.

Business has a great opportunity to do it right and embrace CSV, or they can continue to dwell in their comfort zones and keep plugging away at CSR – and then wonder why, after all the money and effort they have altruistically committed to an activity, people still distrust them.

Brown Jesus says Happy Easter

Good writing is hard to come by, so what we do with recruits at my workplace is to teach them to write well.

Being a former journalist and being one who writes moderately well, the task fell on Unspun to conduct the class.

Being a firm believer that writing is a reflection of your mental processes, I’ve always started the course with Critical Thinking 101 and the first slide in this presentation asks the participants to tell me which of the two images is a more accurate depiction of Christ.

Jesus

To Unspun the comparion is a no brainer. Jesus was a Jew and a middle easterner, a native of Galilee.

People like that, as in the BBC reconstruction from a skull found there during the period of Jesus, tended to look like the chap on the right. He may not looked exactly like the man portrayed but for sure he would have been swarthy and would NIT look like an Anglo-Saxon savior right out of the paintings of Byzantine artists.

Inevitably, however, there would be one or two – sometimes more – participants in the class who said that Jesus would have looked like the person on the left. The reason? That’s the image of Jesus they’ve seen growing up and the image that adorns the churches they go to.

Which was perfect for us to begin our discourse on critical thinking, the importance of not accepting anything at face value and why we need to ask questions more.

Inevitably too, someone would raise the argument that too much critical thinking is bad for us because it makes us cynical. We should just accept things based on faith.

The answer is that too much of anything is not good for anyone. At any rate critical thinking, if practiced skillfully leads one not to cynicism but to skepticism, which is not a bad thing.

In this world, if we question more without becoming cynical (which Oscar Wilde defines as “knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing”) we’d be enjoying oour lives more, not less; and socially and politically we would be ensuring that much of the ugliness and hate in this world we see today would be minimized.

Happy Easter everyone.

 

 

Serial Fellows

We all have them.

Friends and acquaintances who are so talented and must have accomplished so much and shown such promise that they have been singled out time and again to receive one plush fellowship or another.

You know them. They are the ones that pop up in your timeline proclaiming they feel so “humbled” to be selected for such fellowships, then proceed to bombard you with photos of the hallowed halls of influence and scholarship they’ve been sent to and the beautiful super smart people they’ve met.

At first we feel very happy for them, to be recognised for their contributions and being sent out on fellowships so they may learn of developments in their field by others in other countries.

Presumably, this would open their eyes give them new insights with which to come home  and put new ideas into practice for the benefit of recipients of their cause.

So we like their posts when they so generously share on social media the great times they had and the illustrious people they meet.

Then they come home and before you know it, they are on yet another fellowship again. And again with barely a year’s hiatus in between.

Which makes you wonder,

About the institutions dishing out these fellowships. Is Indonesia so thin on talent and worthy people that the same people keep being selected all the time?

About the recipients themselves. Where do they find time to put their new learnings and insights to work if they are busy going form one fellowship to the next?

Unspun recently had conversations with his friends and and we tried to analyse what these recipients do after their initial spurt of productivity that saw them establishing causes, movements and organisations for the public good. Out conclusion was that we couldn’t see how their fellowships had benefitted their causes.

In fact, in some instances, we felt that their causes had suffered from neglect because their founders/main movers were too busy traveling father fellowships.

We counted a couple of serial fellows who must have gone on three or four fellowships over the past five years.

There comes a point in life when anything, even the best intentioned ones involving very talented people, become ridiculous.

 

 

 

 

Erections galore but failure at maintenance remains the bane

Drive down Jalan Sudirman today and what do you see?

You’d probably say you see workers putting the finishing touches on smooth, wide walkways flanked by generous islands of grass, in a process of tarting up Jakarta for the Asian Games that starts on the 18th of next month.

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What I see, however, is a potential eyesore. The authorities here are very good at erecting monuments, public works, parks and grandoise  infrastructure. The look great.

Then comes the hard part – maintaining them, and this is where things unravel. What will the walkways be like a year from now? Will the islands still have grass growing? And what about the ornamental plants beautifying the scene?

Unspun’s prediction is that it will all go to seed because maintenance just isn’t a forte of the authorities.

Jakarta Deputy Governor Sandiaga Uno (the Dumber of the Dumb &Dumber Duo) yesterday admitted just as much when he told Kompas.com that  the City could build Kalijodo, the former red light district converted into a public park, but it could not maintain it.

Of course being Sandi he was not concerned by the truth (It was Ahok who converted and built the park, not his administration) and he had to blame others for his own failings. He said that the public was unable to take care of their park, so it was futile building things like that.

What is wrong with this guy? Cities have by laws against littering, destruction and defacing of public property and unruly public conduct precisely to prevent people from degrading the facilities. It’s a rather alien concept called enforcement that is required here.

Cities also have a budget for maintaining parks. But ensuring that the money is spent properly rather than ending in people’s pockets takes effort and hard work so its not something that he would concern himself with.

So here we go again, seeing magnificent erections but none of the energy to maintain them. When will this country ever learn that implementation and enforcement is as important, if not more, than grand gestures and magnificent new structures?

 

 

JWT’s decision to tap a PR professional to head advertising and digital agencies – good or bad idea

Unspun thinks its the best idea since tempe but then again, he’s biased to the PR profession.

But JWT has taken a huge step in appointing former Ogilvy PR and Pulse boss Marianne Adamardatine to head its operations in Indonesia, that includes digital agency Mirium.

If it works it will open the doors to lots of PR professionals and possibly usher in a new way of communicating not dominated by the advertising mindset. If it fails, the I-told-you-so guys will have a field day.

Will it work or won’t it? What do communicators out there think?

For more information on the appointment go to my posting in the Maverick blog:

 

Finally a PR person to head a major advertising outfit

These are interesting times for the marketing communications industry and for public relations.

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Like all companies in this area, JWT have been experimenting with how to cope with disruption and media convergence. Their answer is an interesting one in Indonesia: appoint a Public Relations professional to head their team in the country.

Campaign has reported that JWT has appointed Marianne Adamardatine, who has led Ogilvy PR and Pulse for many years, and who was recently appointed by Ogilvy to be their Chief Growth Officer, to head JWT indonesia.

She “will be responsible for expanding the company’s capabilities in strategic brand building, digital transformation, customer experience, marketing automation and commerce activation, as well as driving thought leadership and building business engagement with C-suite clients to initiate integrated campaigns,” according to the company. This means she will oversee the advertising and digital operations, Mirium.

We believe this is the first time that someone from a PR, rather than an advertising background, has been appointed to the top position to a major advertising outfit…read more

What do pribumi Indonesians think about their Chinese counterparts?

Not much that is good. That’s what the Singapore-based  ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute found in a survey titled  Chinese Indonesians in the Eyes of the Pribumi Public,

If the survey is accurate it suggests that after decades of living cheek by jowl with the pribumis, they still harbor stereotyped perceptions about the Indonesian Chinese.

Among the most glaring stereotyped are that the Chinese Indonesians tend to be more wealthy than the pribumis. Over 60 percent of respondents in the survey felt this.

Astoundingly almost half of the respondents, 47.6 percent, believe that the Indonesian Chinese  harbor divided loyalties between Indonesia and China.

The survey, which was conducted in May 2016 after the anti-Ahok protests, did not say whether these sentiments were as intense before the demonstrations.

Several questions come to mind from the survey results:

  1. Does this mean that no Chinese Indonesian can ever stand for high office and win, because all the opposition has to do is to fan the racial flames?
  2. Can pribumis be so oblivious of the many, many walthy-off Pribumi officials and  businesspersons that are so visible in everyday Indonesia?
  3. Does it mean that Indonesian Chinese should prepare for a difficult year ahead and until the 2019 presidential elections are over before letting out their breath? Will Indonesia be a racial powder keg all primed?
  4. Should Indonesian Chinese try harder to disabuse their pribumi counterparts of their prejudices? Or are they better off letting things lie than run the risk of stirring things up?
  5. The would the results of a similar survey, if conducted in neighboring Malaysia, show a lower, similar or higher level of prejudice?