On Contributing Towards the Country


It’s been almost 6 months since I graduated last year, and between now and then, I have come back to Indonesia, search for a job, found one, and is now working in one of the biggest media company in Indonesia if not (partly) the world. I was really proud about it, and my loved ones seem to think the same too. But, somehow I still have this huge hole in my heart, a hole that my society has dug on to me since I was just a 1st grader, one that I am afraid I can never fill.

Being an Indonesian, a member of a not too old but not exactly young country, development is the biggest and most exciting word that ever appears in our social sphere. The prospect of being as great as the west, of being able to harvest all of our natural resources and harness it to surpass the greats of Britain and United States to create a country of which we can be proud about.
Orangutan, evolution and Indonesian Rainforests

The consequences of having that dream are the constant (unconscious) condescending marks by our elder member of the society to “contribute to the society” as much as we can. It is the default assumption that once a youngster like me finished my education, I am very much expected by the society to “develop the country” by any means necessary.

the Problem is, we were never actually told how.

More confusingly, we were also expected to make enough money that we can supply our parents with monthly allowance once we receive our first salary. Luckily I have the privilege of having parents with a comfortable life that I don’t have to do that. But many of my fellow young Indonesians do not share these privileges. By the way, funnily enough, when we were offered a program by the government for retirement plan and superannuation program, everybody opposed it. I guess the rationale has already become our instinct.

Anyway, back to contributing to the country, I’ve been working in this news organisation for more than 4 months now, and the only contribution I felt I gave to the country was by barely moving the economy by consuming and contributing to the GDP. Weird right? I mean I work in a news organisation, and I am supposed to be one of those people that can actually make changes to the social sphere by supplying great information, that can make people think, be inspired and engage with their government. Yet, the people here in Indonesia is so corrupt, selfish and self-involved that whatever I do would only end up on me being an idealistic jerk, unemployed and starving. Because the fact of the matter is, everybody just want to hear what they want to hear. Everybody just wants to complain so that they look like they care. And everyone, at the end, would only care about what they can eat tonight and what they can buy on the weekend.

It is only in this country that the reason for me to stop at the traffic light is positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement. You should know that something is wrong when if you follow the rule, you would feel good because you are doing the right thing in front of those jerks on the streets instead because of the fines and the act of, you know, actually being careful. The people around here is so corrupt that if you choose to do something right, you would end up being someone who is suffering. I mean remember the likes of Munir?

Now of course there are inspiring people who can actually make great contributions and do the right thing without ending up being the one in the bottom. They even got to benefit other people. But living in Jakarta, that thought and its ratio is getting imbalanced.

I thought to myself last night, when I stopped behind the line at the red light, watching all the guys yelling at me for not joining them in front of the line blocking the way just so that they don’t have to queue. What does contribute to the country actually mean? There are a lot of good answers of course, but one thought could never leave my mind, which is if I actually stay here and contribute to the country, I would actually help those jerks who yelled at me. Those jerks who don’t even consider my very existence at all, jerks who are so selfish they don’t care enough about buying a helmet for their daughters and yet able to buy a modified exhaust for their motorbikes. Jerks who wouldn’t stop at the traffic light and would yell at me any chance they can. Jerks who would burn a thief for stealing a bloody motorbike, who would comfortably take somebody else’s life for a mere crime.

This brings me to my friend’s question, what do this country deserve? Do I have to devote my life towards them? What has the country given me? And if I stay, would I benefit from it?

This thought, this very piece of writing that I am doing right now, is a very selfish lens of looking at the Indonesian society at the moment. And it is my actual view of the country too. And even though I would jump in the chance of getting a job in other country, I still feel obligated to “contribute to the country”. Despite the fact that we are moving towards a more global society.

This thought, this very rationale of looking at the very thought of “contributing to the country” is wrong, and it’s not supposed to be this way. If any, the thing that we can take from my view (and I am very sure that this view is not exclusively mine), is that the answer to developing Indonesia is to somehow slowly educate these jerks on how to at least live as a decent, modern human beings. And no matter how great we are making our own self are, the number of jerks in Indonesia will always be higher, and dragging them a century ahead from a 20th century logic towards our logic is (I think) the only way to develop Indonesia.


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