Thursday, April 29, 2004

Indonesia Boleh

Indonesia Boleh

It is drizzling outside and everyone feels edgy, afraid that another massive congestion is going to build up when people start going home at five or six. With the intolerable traffic, cramped living conditions and the heavy pollution (third most polluted city in the world), it is amazing that there are people who still choose to live in Jakarta. Maybe some don't really have a choice, because most of the job opportunities are here.

Yet, despite all its inconveniences, Jakartans in general don't complain as much about their city as Singaporeans or KLites do about theirs--at least that's the perception I get. Well, they do complain, but their tone is slightly different: When Jakartans talk about the ineptness of the authorities, the corruption in the government, and the lackadaisical attitude of their fellow citizens, they tend to laugh it off as something that's almost inevitable, as if nothing can be done about it, as if it is the nature of Indonesians themselves.

I also sense a certain lack of self-belief among locals about their own strengths and capabilities. They always look to more "advanced" neighbours like Singapore or even Malaysia as models. Many of my Indonesian colleagues here are equally if not more capable than I am, but they sometimes prefer me to be the one to present to their customers because Indonesian customers tend to believe what a foreign "expert" says.

Well, one can also say that this inferiority complex is an Asian disease but it seems to be a lot more pronounced here. This leads to situations where some foreigners find it convenient to abuse the respect that locals accord to them. I find that extremely deplorable.

Indonesian society has such depth and diversity. There's certainly no dearth of talents. Their achievements in certain areas, like in the arts and literature, surpass that of her neighbours. The people are resilient and are quite capable of hardwork. Sometimes I feel they need another Sukarno to rouse the greatness that's inherent within them.

The path towards lasting peace and prosperity is certainly not any easy one for a country as vast as Indonesia. But the starting point has to be self-belief. Without it, the battle is already lost before it is even started.

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