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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some questions about #SayaPancasila

The hallmark of a good campaign is that it spurs public discourse on a particular subject. In this sense, the #SayaPancasila campaign can be said to be successful, if the preponderance of the hashtag and profile pictures bering the message on social media are concerned.

Effective public discourse, however, exists when there are differences of opinion and when the participants abide by rules of rhetorical fair play. So here goes Unspun‘s contribution to the public discourse on the#SayaPancasila campaign.

Three questions spring to mind from all the #SayaIndonesia and #SayaPancasila profile photos being used on Facebook Instagram and other social media channels:

  1. Are atheists allowed to proclaim #SayaPancasila? Pancasila requires the belief God, in whatever form she exists. Arising from this should there be a discussion on which is more appropriate for Indonesia today – a concept from 1945 repurposed to knit together Indonesia in 2017; or would Embracing Diversity be a more appropriate idea to campaign on?
  2. When people these days declare #SayaPancasila can it be taken as their full subscription to the five principles formulated by Sukarno in 1945 as an instrument to rally people round Indonesian Nationalism? Or is it more a talisman to signal their rejection of the more extreme and intolerant elements of Indonesia today, i.e. Rizieq and the FPI as well as other assorted hardliners? There is a difference here: one is an embrace of something, another is a rejection of another thing.
  3. Are all these declarations of #SayaPancasila on the internet missing the target? One of the things the internet is notorious for is to create bubbles where like-minded people reinforce their own ideas and convictions. How many of these #SayaPancila proclamations are actually seen by the real targets? These are the 50+ percent who voted for Anies, the thousands of easter-clad protesters who came out on 212 and other demonstrations, that part of Indonesia who get their information more from mosques and grassroots institutions than the social media. There is also the question of whether seeing such #SayaPancasila declarations would persuade them to change their minds or reinforce their believes so that they dig down even deeper in the embrace of hardline attitudes and beliefs.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that any effort to claw Indonesia back from the clutches of the hardliners is something good for this country and society. But will it be effective? Or wilt be a distraction when resources could have been channeled elsewhere for greater effect?

So where do people stand on these three questions?

 

 

 

Oxford University about to shoot itself on the foot with Kalla invite?

Unspun watched with incredulity and horror a segment from the documentary The Act of Killing in which Yusuf calla addressed a group of Pancasila Youth, who were known to be the secular equivalent of a FPI in their heyday.

 

He told the group that this country needed preman (thugs) because they got things done. Unlike the apparat (bureaucrats) who would debate a thing to death. he then explained the romantic origin of the word preman which apparently is derived from freeman.

How is it that such a man who has been documented on film as having said such preposterous words could become the Vice President of a country not once but twice boggles the imagination. He hasn’t improved since and like Trump is a serial offender against tolerant and non-sectarian views. His latest, of course, is taking a swipe at the stereotype of the Chinese Christians and Taoists being the richest people in Indonesia while the Muslim non-Chinese lag behind.

You wonder what checks and balances as well as screening processes this country’s political is bereft of. But that is Indonesia, where democracy is still a shiny new toy whose ways need to be mastered.

But Oxford University? The cradle of some of the best minds to walk the earth? The seat of intellectual prowess? Surely they can do better?

One assumes that the people running the university would have access to the internet and they would do some desktop research, at the very least, before they extended an invitation to Kalla to speak.

VP Kalla to Speak About Religious Tolerance at Oxford University | Jakarta Globe

Jakarta. Vice President Jusuf Kalla will speak about religious tolerance in Indonesia upon an invitation from Oxford University in England.

“They want to know about Islam in Indonesia, how the religion is practiced here. Many experts and diplomats will attend the event,” Kalla said on Monday (15/05).

According to Kalla, the international community seeks to learn more about the development of Islam in Indonesia, which many consider unique and different from other Muslim countries.

“They want to know why in the Muslim world, which is marred by divisions, there is Indonesia which still believes in Islamic unity as long as [the religion] is rightly practiced,” Kalla said.

According to the university’s website, the vice president is scheduled to talk at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies on May 18. He left for the United Kingdom on Tuesday.

During his international trip, Kalla will also attend the 2017 Indonesia Trade Expo in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“We are always looking for new markets. The Balkan region is still out of reach, so we’re working to change that,” Kalla said.

 

Where/who should the anger over Ahok’s conviction be directed at?

Many Indonesians and friends of Indonesia are understandably angry at the sentencing of Ahok to two years jail for blasphemy.

But to where or whom should this anger be directed at?

Getting the measure of the man. Is he who we think he should be?

At Bu Yani whose mistranslation started the whole blasphemy charges? He was only an inconsequential pawn in the game.

At the Islamic radicals who have bayed for Ahok’s blood? They were only being themselves, just as it is in the nature of a scorpion to sting.

At the prosecutors who indicted Ahok when there should be no grounds to do so? They were minnows who caved under pressure.

At the judge who delivered the verdict? Again a minnow who could not stand up to the enormous forces at play.

At the Police who cannot seemingly enforce the law and arrest protesters even for small crimes? They take their cue from higher powers.

At the mysterious forces arrayed against Jokowi? They are formidable but not invulnerable, certainly not if they faced the wrath of a president.

At the Military that is purported conspiring with the mysterious forces? They are pledged to remain loyal to the Commander-in-Chief, aka The president.

Yep, no matter how you look at it, all signs point to The President if you ask what and to whom should the anger be directed at.

Now about the President: Jokowi has been enjoying a honeymoon all this while, especially among the self-perceived progressive Indonesians, precisely the type of people who have been supporting Ahok. Jokowi enjoys their support, or failing that, their looking the other way when he fails to live up to his obligations as a president. And why not? After all he’s one of the very few honest men in government, he’s humble and likable.

This disarms the progressives and blinds them to the inadequacies of the man who, frankly, has been disastrous as a president where the upholding of liberties, human rights and the law is concerned. Jokowi is the only man in a position to set the tenor of law enforcement, yet he does nothing, so the Police do not know how much to exercise their power.

The result: wishy washy handling of protesters and FPI typed who flagrantly break the law and do not go punished. This builds in them a sense of impunity.Out of small crimes they graduate to bigger ones because they know they can get away with it. This emboldens them.

And even when the Police act, as in those treason cases, they take forever to process the cases. Justice delayed, as they say, is justice denied. Again it reinforces the sense of impunity.

This has allowed the hardline Muslims to take ever bolder steps to press for what they want, to flout the law and eventually to start dictating to the government.

It is time that the progressive Indonesians wake up to the fact that their skinny President has no clothes and rightly direct their anger and pressure at him. On his scrawny shoulders lies the fate of Indonesia. No one else has the power and the influence that he can yield. The least he can do is to set the tone and manner of how the law should be enforced in such a way that all and sundry understand that enough is enough. It is time to toe the line or face the consequences.

if he can do this he can still bring Indonesia from the precipice that it is slouching toward. If he can’t then we’ll be watching Indonesia descend into chaos, bigotry, intolerance, violence and a tyranny of the boorish.

 

 

 

 

 

Where is Jokowi in our hour of need?

Today most Indonesians who pride themselves as progressive would have felt let down by the news that Ahok has been sentenced to 2 years jail for blasphemy. They view Ahok as innocent and a victim of bigots, Muslim hardliners and vested interests in politics.

On the other side are those who feel a sense of justice because they feel that Ahok had been contemptuous of them. Them loosely defined as those mostly Muslims that see his speech at 1,000 Islands as blasphemous or at least insulting, and those who feel that Ahok had gone too far in his outbursts against those who disagree with him.

The important question to ask is firstly whether Ahok’s punishment fit the crime? Ahok has certainly been brash and maybe even abuse in his outbursts against those who are sometimes clueless of how government should work and try to appeal to him directly, he has also been contemptuous, this time perhaps rights, against those who want to take advantage of the system, be they  politicians or civil servants.

So if anything Ahok can be said to be guilty of being insensitive, callous and sarcastic, “crimes” that may earn him a reprimand but certainly not two years in jail.

But jail he must go, says the judge, and while Ahok’s lawyers are sure to appeal the decision, the question to raise now is what does his conviction portend.

Today’s decision is sure to embolden further to an already emboldened religious Muslim Right who will now not stop until they become the political ruling class. And why not. They smell blood in the air. Against legal norms they have managed to wrap the blasphemy charge against Ahok, seemingly against the implicit wishes of the President himself and the more liberal and dominant Muslim sector represented by the NU. They can virtually see the light at the end of the tunnel with Ahok’s conviction.

Today was also a good day for Prabowo who has his eyes on the next round of the presidential elections in 2019. At the present there is only Jokowi who is the only viable opponent for 2019. With Jokowi dithering and meditating on his own non-action in a very Javanese way, Prabowo is starting to look even better as presidential prospect in two years, what more with him cozying up to the leaders of the Islamic hard liners. Whether he can, like Lee Kuan Yew who rode the communists like a tiger to power and afterward subdued them, ride the Islamists to power and then subdue them remains to be seen.

The only thing that can forestall all of this coming to pass is Jokowi himself who apparently is locked in inaction because he does not want to be accused of being authoritarian and brutal as Suharto and who feels that he does not have enough control of the political parties and factions and the military to crack down on the Islamic hardliners.

Hence legal violations like inciting racial hatred, acts of vandalism during demonstrations and the FPI taking the law into their own hands goes unpunished, adding to the sense of impunity these thugs already feel.

Jokowi takes no hard decisions and instead he seems to be looking elsewhere but the right place for a solution. While Ahok’s verdict was being read, for instance, the President’s advisory council was meeting influential people to discuss how best to “socialize” Pancasila. Another meeting is being held tomorrow with another group of social leaders on the same subject.

This is all nonsense. The Pancasila may espouse the best values that a nation could want but unless the government is ready and willing to show that it is ready to stand up and defend these values, no amount of spin and socialization would have real lasting effect.

In this dark hour, the people of Indonesia want a decisive leader, a firm leader and a resolute one to lead them out of the present path leading to division, sectarianism and confusion. It is time that Jokowi discard that Javanese facade and act as a national leader, lest Prabowo be tempted to shoo him away like ants trying to get at his cakes.

Jokowi, do not forsake your people. They need you to be strong for them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mystery behind the Cisewu Tyger

OK, so everyone had a chuckle and some fun over the Cisewu Tiger. And rightly so because it looks like the sculptor was smoking something illegal that the police confiscated when fashioning his magnum opus. But as usual, people miss asking the right questions when it comes to such stories.

The questions:

  1. Who was the sculptor and what’s his claim to fame if not being the relative of some high ranking military man?
  2. Who in the military commissioned the sculptor?
  3. How is it that presumably sensible military commanders could approve this comical sight and pay the sculptor?

In short (with apologies to William Blake):

What immoral hand or eye,
Could frame thy laughable symmetry?

Comical tiger statue at military base torn down but netizen frenzy remains

Amusement is one thing you might rarely find in a military base.

But this was not the case at the Subdistrict Military Command (Koramil) 1123 in Cisewu, West Java, when a smiling tiger statue at the base generated laughter and glee around the country.

On Monday, however, the odd-looking statue located at the base’s main entrance was taken down into pieces. The tiger is the symbol of the Siliwangi Military Command, which oversees the entire West Java province. For a few days prior to Monday, netizens shared the hashtag #MacanCisewu (Cisewu Tiger), with the picture of the statue going viral.

With its wide smile, the tiger would surely put a smile on the face of any visitor to the base. Social media users had every reason to post hilarious comments on the statue, but high-ranking military officers felt irritated by the online fuss.

The cheeky netizens were deemed bullies by the military and alas, the military eventually decided to dismantle the tiger.

Source: Comical tiger statue at military base torn down but netizen frenzy remains – Entertainment – The Jakarta Post

Is Trump the best thing to happen to America, and the World?

This idea, like Trump himself, seems preposterous.

Here is a man who violates all form of political correctness, a racist, a misogynist, a racist, a pussy grabber….and the lost of deplorables goes on. As a result most people around the world, let alone Americans, woke up with the shit!-was-I-so-wasted-I-went-to-bed-with-THAT! expression the morning after the November 8 elections.

We blink, and hope that it was only a bad dream after all. But no such luck. Trump is now the President elect. We got screwed by Hideous and that’s a fact of life.

liberty

No point whining about it now, or be outraged by the electoral system or the type of people who voted him in.

There is a good reason why Trump won, and the sooner we all come to grips with it, the sooner we, the rest of the world (excluding the Brexit Brits, they too had already been screwed) would be able to avoid a similar fate.

Among everything Unspun has heard and read about this election and Brexit, I’ve found two articles to be particularly enlightening.

The first is an article by former Wall Street Journal reporter and co-founder of Muslim Reform Movement Asra Q. Nomani. She’s a Muslim, a woman, an immigrant and she voted Trump. Until now, she had been one of Trump’s silent supporters, because to declare her preference would have exposed her to all sorts of bullying by the more liberal members of America’s population.

Today she wrote an article for the Washington Post here. You could disagree with a lot of the things she said but what fascinated me is that for her and people like her, the possibility of Trump being an agent for change in the US’s policy on bread-and-butter issues and on the Islamic State was so important it overwhelms all this weaknesses. She also sees Clinton as a member of the establishment that will not change anything substantially.

Read Asra’s article together with George Monbiot‘s article Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems and an interesting picture develops. It is a long but thoughtful piece on how neoliberal we all – our governments, our businesses, our educated classes – have become without even realizing it.

So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.

The bottom line of the article is that neoliberalism (no not the pejorative term in use today but the actual economic concept) has taken over most part of the world. As a result we have become a world in which the strongest (read: the cleverest, most educated and networked) thrive while the rest are not only left to languish but scolded for being unable to climb out of their gutter.

In this world, social and welfare safety nets have been dismantled, and – to simplify matters – the poor get poorer while the privileged jet around, attend Ted talks, do yoga, fashion themselves as entrepreneurs with their startups, networking sessions and get richer.

In any society you can’t have the relatively few eating richer cakes while the poor become more disenfranchised, find themselves deeper in depth and get angrier because even if they are willing to work hard and long there is simply no way out for them.

It is this anger that has propelled the need for change at any cost, and Trump and Brexit are the results.

The pertinent questions we should ask ourselves is what can we do to meet the challenges wrought on us by Neoliberalism. Trump/Brexit is a bit like Communism facing Capitalism. There was once a time when Capitalists looked on Communism as a threat as frightening as the Mongol Hordes. There was once a time when it seemed as if Communism would swallow up Capitalism.

Staring into that abyss, Capitalism changed from the raw Dickensian form of ruthless exploitation to a gentler and more caring form, and that eventually defeated Communism.

Today history may have come around to pitting the forces that ensued the success of Trump/Brexit against Neoliberalism. Can we change so that we embrace a liberalism that is more inclusive of all the segments in our society, so that the rich may have an opportunity to become richer, but only if they also help take care of the welfare and empower the less fortunate of sectors of society to become more prosperous as well. Call it Creating Shared Value if you would.

In a rising tide all ships rise, in an ebbing tide all ships fall.

If we are able to take Trump’s victory as a wake up call for us to address the deficiencies of neoliberalism we may yet catch that tide. In this sense, Trump may be the best thing to happen to us all, lest we descend uncomprehendingly in a falling tide.