Bluebird Singing in The Dead of Night

Pretty sure many of you have heard about the violence done by Jakarta’s Taxi drivers yesterday. I say Taxi drivers because, despite my title, not all of the protesters are bluebird drivers, and not all bluebird drivers are protesting.

Anyway, let’s talk about online platform induced violence.

Many of us understandably condemned the Taxi driver for the riot and for some of the violence. Many of us understandably blamed the Taxi providers for letting this to happen. Almost none of us, weirdly, didn’t mention the series of violence done by Gojek drivers these past weeks or months. Not even yesterday’s too (and don’t say it’s not on the news because it’s effing there).

All we ever did when Gojek driver made a mistake is to complain when a driver is not giving a good service or a bit creepy, give them one-star review, share it on your Path or other social media thinking it was enough and that’s about it. Some of us even gave a disclaimer “I don’t usually do this, but this is a must know experience” or something like that (yeah right).


So why did we make a big deal out of yesterday’s protest? Is it the violence? Is it the simple disturbance of the traffic? Or the fact that, maybe, we feel like we don’t need conventional taxi anymore, that we started using double standards?

I am not trying to justify any of their action, because ultimately, violence and riot solve nothing. That being said, their concerns are sort of, justified. Online mode of transportation is not clearly regulated. Their tax reports are ambiguous, and its safety regulation is almost non-existent.

Let’s put aside the possibility that some taxi drivers don’t even care about that, and only want online transportation services to be banished, and let’s put ourselves in the protester’s shoes.

Most of them have been driving around for years, some maybe even decades. It is only last year that Express taxi can start to expand, and it is only last year that the most common advice I got from people, travelling to Jakarta, is to use either Bluebird or Express if I want to commute. That was only a year ago.

Now all of a sudden, their passengers decreased and their income is almost 50 percent less. Of course, we would think that they could seek other options, like moving to a more modern transportation establishment. And some of them did. But most of them are too loyal and (as much older Indonesian generation often do) are already too comfortable with what they’re doing; they don’t see the point of changing company, let alone occupation.

Given the unclear regulation for online transport services and decreasing individual revenue, their frustrations are then understandable. Not justified, understandable.

So who’s at fault then?

Well nobody really is. companies like Uber, Gojek and Grab are actually anxiously waiting for regulations to come out so that they can get it done and over with. While the government, on the other hand, is playing catch-up and is still quite unsure of what to do.

There is no question that something needs to be done here, and as the transportation minister has said that he left it all to the appropriate regional government while they’re doing their work, I’m afraid it is becoming the case of Ahok to the rescue again.

So what it means is that they don’t know what to do yet, and the governor for each region can do whatever they want to do until the federal government knows what to do.

But the last thing that we can do as an educated consumer and service user is to fuel the frustration and condemns the drivers. Because, while we can understand what’s happening, modernisation and digital economic revolution, they don’t.

All they know is that they get less and less money every single day.

And while we may know when to quit, especially when our company and field are dying, they don’t.

Sometimes we forget and take our privileges for granted, that we ignore the fact that maybe, people doesn’t have the same level of understandings, that some people are not as lucky enough to get educated, and we demand them to have the same level of understanding about virtually everything, without trying to understand the shoes that they’re standing on.

You see the sucky thing about being educated is that we must try to understand the shoes of the less educated because we now have the ability to consider their position. But they are less obliged to do so because they might not understand the different factors affecting them, let alone the modern society.

Anyhow, There is little that we can do here, because the government, as I said, is still catching up, the taxis can only wait powerlessly, and the online services have completed every single requirement made by the government, almost the moment it was announced.

The last thing that we want to do is to make this us against them. We are the educated one here aren’t we? And by educated, I do not only mean that we have a glossy laminated degree hanging on our bedroom wall somewhere. By educated, I mean we are able to think critically and consider different perspectives without judging them subjectively, and make an objective conclusion that is beneficial (or at least, can give closure) for both views.

And by the way, please don’t start embargoing conventional taxis. Not all taxi drivers participated in the riot, actually, only some of them do. And by embargoing all taxi, the only thing we may do is to add the number of frustrated taxi drivers. Unless you can somehow tell which drivers participated in the riot and which aren’t.

“Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.” – Francis Bacon

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