Governor Anies Baswedan: It is NOT Another Brexit

It is really hard to make sense of how Anies won the gubernatorial race last week. Not that the reasoning behind his victory is not obvious enough. Nor that his capability is way below what it should be. It is just that, for me who have known Indonesia for the past 24 years; Jakarta’s decision to choose Anies and Sandi goes against everything i’ve learned about country.

Indonesia has been (sort of) famous for being a diverse, multi-cultural yet tolerant country. For anybody who lives in it long enough as a minority, they’ll know that it is just a bunch of lies. Indonesia being tolerant is like saying that the great wall of china can be seen from outer space. It sounded plausible, but it is not when you actually try and see it yourself.

And that has never been a problem for me. I kind of get used to (with some complaining to get me through by using this blog) living a life where I have to be disrupted by prayers call five times a day, or being judged for eating during the fasting period, or the minor inconvenience of not being able to find bacon in every supermarket. That has generally been okay with me. So when Ahok is being attacked for blasphemy against muslim even if it is obviously a political maneuver, I wasn’t even raising my eyebrow, because it is sort of expected..

It is politics. It is dirty. it is corrupt. it is opportunistic. So Anies’s victory, for me, is more than comprehensible.

What I could not understand, however, is the way people reacted to it. Understandably, Ahok’s supporters are frustrated and they took it to social media and start bullying everybody they know, while Anies’s supporter just go about their usual live as if nothing has happened.

But, there is this one group of people who started bullying every Anies’s supporter and blaming them for allowing him to be voted. Basically comparing the election to Brexit and the U.S. election. Arguing, that their country has been polarised and divided because of this very election.

Thing is, our country has always been polarised. Our country has always been separated.

I remember when I was growing up, every single day my mom would drove me to school; Back then, she would made sure that I understand I could never marry anyone outside my religion (especially muslim). I remember (being in a catholic school) hating muslims together with my friends without knowing why. I remember blaming all Muslims for the Bali bombing without even knowing the differences between radicalised terrorist and my muslim neighbours.

That level of hatred has always been there. Hatred that was manufactured by fear. You see, my mom was completely scared that I would marry a muslim and found out that our religious differences would lead me to an unhappy marriage. You see me and my friend hated every muslims we met because we are scared that they would punch us in the face for not behaving properly (even if there’s no reason why they would punch us at the first place). And that relationship is reciprocal.

We acted everyday as if everything is okay. We say hi to our neighbours, wish them good things when they’re struggling and send them congratulations when they achieve something; But deep inside, we wished they would’ve been more similar to us. We wished that they do not believe in the holy trinity, or that they do not believe a woman should cover every single inch of their body, or that they could not eat a cow.

Deep inside we created assumptions about somebody we do not even know and talk to, because they believe in different Gods than us.

Please do tell me if I’m the only one, but at least that’s how I was raised.

All that change when I met my friends in Melbourne who completely share the same fear and concerns as I was and ended up being less devoted to our Gods.

But my friends here. Those people reminds me of my middle school years.

And that is how I have always seen Indonesia. And sadly, socio, economics or even educational backgrounds has nothing to do with it. One can have good degrees but understanding requires more than just learned knowledge. It requires patience and a willingness to be wrong. And religion just simply does not let us to be wrong.

So when you say Anies’s voters has created a brexit-like condition in Indonesia, I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, because it has always been like this. We have had these polarised, racist and divided society all along, even before this country was even born, we have the innate instinct to hate on different groups. We live kingdoms by kingdoms, and we have maintain different traits for living in different parts of Indonesia, governed by different kingdoms. And that differences will always be a source of fear for us. And that source of fear will always manufacture hatred for us. We are innately trained to fear (and later hate) anybody who has a different background than us.

We are not divided because we choose Anies, we choose Anies because we are divided. And minor issues like blasphemy would only highlight something that has always been there all along.

This is a really negative and pessimistic view of it, but it is (whether I like it or not) the way I see it.

Man, I hope I’m wrong.

Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power. – J.S.

Advertisements

Rethinking Tolerance: Blasphemy and Why Minorities Should Just Give Up

In about a month, I would’ve been here in Jakarta for 2 whole year. This strange, dingy, chaotic city is now my home. I’ll have to admit, the challenges of adjusting to life here, are humongous. The piercing and yet humid afternoon sun that never seem to help your skin decide whether you’re too hot or getting a cold because of the sweats. The long, long, long queues of cars along the street, waiting for a wealthier, taller black SUV’s cutting the proletarian’s road miles ahead creating bottle necks. The smell of clove cigarettes, combined with the smoke your everyday motorbikes produce. The mysterious figure you can’t see the first time you’re trying to park your car, but is always there to pickup that leftover coins of yours somehow.

This city, it is a place worthy to be called jungle. Hell jungle is worthy to be called this city. Bottom line is, this city is a tough place to adjust to.

Yet, those inconvenience hasn’t really lived up to its dark reputation for me. In fact, I think those things has made this city become more exotic somehow. It gives it identity that separates it, even from the most livable city in the world. It has a very, very unique identity. It’s the homeless guy that always smiles, sitting besides his dog just north of Swanston street every day. He has a rather charming character isn’t he?

What I find challenging here in the city, has instead been the tolerance of its people.

Let me explain.

It is indeed very moving and beautiful, the first time you step into this city, where a majority of Muslim can live side by side by side with each other without seemingly any problem with other race or religion. Nobody have ever asked for my religion, nobody threw a spoon at me when I pray for my food in front of them, and nobody ever make a big fuss when I eat my lunch during a fasting period at the office.

Until you pay attention a little bit more to the people.

You see, maybe I live in this city during the wrong period of time. Like it or not, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama’s (Ahok) blasphemy case has had its polarizing effects toward this society. His Alleged misappropriation of Al Maidah 51 has brought a lot of unintended consequences, not only for himself but more towards the fabric of our society and how it interacts with each other. Suddenly, race and religion becomes even more important. Suddenly, common sense is abandoned.

Until I thought back to the past 23 months I’ve been living in the city. During this period, I’ve lived in two different places, both of them very near a mosque (unless you live in an apartment, I don’t think there’s such a place far from a mosque in Jakarta these days). 5 times a day, light or dark, they will sound the speaker to remind everybody (that includes me) to pray. Of course I don’t pray the same way, but that’s fine by me I thought. As long as they don’t force me to do so.

And then you see the road you usually go through everyday is closed on Friday afternoon. People are praying on the street weekly, and it is not uncommon for them to close the road so that people don’t pass and disturb their rituals. But I guess my church back in Jogja also do that every weekend, so who am I to complain?

After all, people here think it’s okay to close the road for any personal reason anyway.

But those things, those are just minor everyday routine that I find and I don’t mind.

So why am I making a fuss then? Why can’t I just adjust to this place?

Truth be told, I was about to. I started to feel comfortable living here in the city, right until the moment that blasphemy case started.

Suddenly, I see my neighbor differently. Suddenly I see my colleagues differently.

There was one moment, where I saw somebody I knew, posted the 411 movement on her social media. On it, she posted the sea of people flooding Monumen Nasional for the blasphemy case. Asking the government to prosecute Ahok, using banners with unkind words such as kill him! Kafir! And Pigs! (what they usually call Indonesian born Chinese). On it, she wrote “how beautiful it was” or something along that line. I get that She was referring to the love people have to their religion. But her failure to understand the context was the thing that worries me the most.

Since then, this movement that supposedly ‘defend’ Islam continues on and changes its form along the way to ‘defend’ ulama and finally to “choose a Muslim leader”. It has turned itself from a religious movement into a political propaganda.

All this, to be honest, wouldn’t be a problem for me if I don’t know these people. I thought having an okay job at an okay office would guarantee me a reasonably educated friends. And that is what I got really. Yet, they can still ‘double think’ and thought that whatever the 411 and other movements was, it was justified.

They are willing to get behind, or at least to not condemn somebody who’s been hiding behind religion to spread hatred and ostracize the minority. They are angry at Ahok for citing Al Maidah 51- even though he was (in my opinion) justifiably worried that people won’t accept his program to help empower them because people are using that verse to black campaign against him- yet, they are willing to march on the street and campaign against him using that very verse. Justifying his worries.

All that made me realize. That me, as a minority, I don’t belong here. At least not if I want to stand up for myself. Because If I want to live here, I have to continue respecting the mosque speaker and the roadblocks. Because if I want to live here, I have to accept that tolerance in this country, means that the minority have to stay silent and pave ways to the majority. So they can do whatever they want to.

This sadly, has become or has always been (without us realizing it) the norm here. Here, in a city where most malls accept any kind of clothes as appropriate. Yet at the same time, just minutes behind that very mall, people find it okay to blame victims of sexual abuse for wearing a “sexy” clothes. Why wear a revealing sinful clothes at the first place? They said. It’s not my fault that she made me horny! They said.