Let’s Make Sure that Our Leader is Not Becoming a Dictator

Prior to 2009, politics were mainly about personal preference. Figure head was part of the conversation, but policy and ideology, the exchange of views, the battle between progressivism and conservatism has always become the main driver for most countries with democracy in the world.

Sure we have somebody like Al Gore or Bush being a poster boy for both of the extremes, but at the very end, the battle was between the left and the right.

There were arguably no bigger media darling than Obama once were. His rise to power and fame, was a unique and inceptive social phenomenon, that brings about changes in the political landscape not just in terms of policy, but more importantly on how politics will change its course over the years.

His Yes we can campaign is, for me, a turning point on how a political figure would be seen and regarded from 2008 on. His prominence and huge presence in social media, has shifted the way politics would work in the future [present].

Obama’s success proved that an individual as a brand can become stronger than the party. Arguably, his presence has lifted the Democrats more so than the other way around.

All that, apart from his charm and intelligence, was possible thanks to social media platforms. Through strong social media campaign, his public image skyrocketed not only in the US, but all around the world.

That trend catches on relatively quickly. In less than 2 years, Indonesian mayor turned governor turned president Joko Widodo has taken advantage of the same momentum and medium, to rise into power and fame.

Image result for social media political cartoon

On one end, this is a really good preposition. Thanks to social media, the pathway to power that was exclusively controlled by the “political elite” has since been demolished, and is now pretty much open to anyone. I mean if a dark skinned candidate can take the throne away from a clinton [granted that it is not a male one] and rednecks twice, then anything can basically happen from then on.

Somebody as “ordinary” as Joko Widodo was able to appeal to a much larger audience, because the stage that was exclusively owned by parties is now forced to be shared with independent (and yet collective) movements in the social media.

From then on, we have Trudeau and Macron and (unfortunately) Trump in an international political stages, and the likes of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, Susi Pudjiastuti and Ridwan Kamil in our national political landscape. The type of individuals that can basically win any election with any party if he puts enough calculated efforts into it.

This arguably new scape in politics though, does not come without consequences.

Whilst the pro of giving access to practically anyone to become a politician with the help of social media is quite desirable. Its cons can also be equally, or even more damaging.

And no, I’m not even going to talk about the fake news and hoaxes.

The overwhelming supports that a candidate, or a figure receive through social media has often driven by admiration of certain personality or individual characteristics. Obama was liked because he is reasonable and seems approachable as a person. Jokowi was adored for being modest, humble and honest. Basuki, Susi and Ridwan are loved for being smart and firm.

All that, were also followed by success implementation of policies or good decisions that in the end also elevate their profile.

Those things, however, has unfortunately created unrealistic idolization of the figure. Which leads to blind supports and fanaticism. The sort of support that were enjoyed by sports player and mega artist like Justin Bieber, is now equally enjoyed by politicians.

This is obviously not really good, because a football player or Justin Bieber don’t get to decide how much benefits your uncle should get from his medicare. Arsenal can keep Arsene and Justin can keep making cheesy catchy song that annoys you all day without necessarily making any significant impact in your life.

But a politician could.

In fact, those are what they’re paid and elected for.

We can always choose not to watch Arsenal play or listen to Despacito all day by turning them off. But we cannot turn our back on our country and politicians, because where else would we go?

So we cannot adore a politician the same way we adore Justin Bieber and Arsene (who am i kidding). We need to reserve some sort of criticism towards any politician, because as any politician naturally do, they will make mistakes.

Unfortunately, lately (in Indonesia at least) we have seen less criticism and more blind defense towards a politician for a certain policy. Take the latest executive order issued by president Jokowi on organisations for instance (Perppu no. 2 Tahun 2017). That decision, as sweet as his administration are trying to put it as, is still a very insulting backstab into our very idea of democracy. An authoritarian-esque move that we feel comfortable criticising when Erdogan or Putin does it, and yet defend to the dying breath when Jokowi issued it.

Sadly this is not the first time that he shows his willingness to be flexible with the idea of democracy and his willingness to flirt with power. Rizieq Shihab’s case (as much as I want him to be locked up) is suspiciously very comfortable in terms of both timing and circulation of evidence for the police to be just a coincidence. Not to mention the locking up of some figures (again who had it coming frankly) for supposedly treason without a proper trial.

Those things we would’ve enraged by, if done by Soeharto towards somebody like Goenawan Mohamad.

Yet, somehow we (and by we, I mean Jokowi’s supporter) feel comfortable with it now. Again, maybe because he is hiding behind “pancasila” and “extremism”. But is putting those people behind bars worth our democracy? The very idea that we accuse those people against at the first place. Because the way it is done right now, is very undemocratic at the very least.

Same goes to cases against Susi when it comes to cantrang, or Basuki when it comes to evictions. Yes some bad people may have used their good intentions and bad implementations into their benefits to keep their dirty money going, but it does not take away the fact that Susi’s decision on Cantrang provides no solution for lower class fishermans, and Basuki’s evictions provides no solution for people who has become accustomed to a certain way of living.

All this shouldn’t take away the good things that these figures has done for the society. All and all, I still do believe that these people are good leaders. But, we need to realize, that as politicians, they should be hold responsible for any actions that they took, be it good or bad. Appreciations are due for good decisions and criticism should be imminent for bad decisions.

We shouldn’t get trapped by our preference and become a part of a sided wave by constantly engaging in argument with somebody in the internet and criticizing those individuals. Instead, we should criticize and pay more attention towards the policy and the decision makers.

Our best and most important part to play in a democratic society, is to be in the middle, or at least in our own side to hold people up to their promises. To tell them which policy you think is good for you and the society around you. Our leader should not come in a package like a macas meal. We should be able to point to them what to do policy by policy, not just follow and agree to anything that they say.

You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it – MX

On Govenrment’s Budget and Joko Widodo’s 366 Days in Office

It is one day after the first anniversary of Joko Widodo’s presidency in Indonesia, and as expected, we can still see some political oblivion amongst Indonesian social media that will hurt your soul into the deepest part of it.

As we can expect, people still blatantly support him no matter what, because you know, they choose him. On the other hand, people also still blatantly opposed him no matter what because, you guessed it, they didn’t choose him.

Today, I woke up to a notion that Jokowi has done a great job, and that how much money the government has spent from their budget is irrelevant. Well first of all, I will never oppose the notion of patting somebody in the back for the work they’ve done. But on the other hand, I do oppose incorrect statement.

Thing is, the amount of money that the government body has spent from their budget (penyerapan aggaran) is critically important. It demonstrates how much of our tax money is being spent, how is it distributed, and whether it is distributed well.

budget

The thing about government budget is that, the more money they have in their pocket, the less good it is. Because first, as I said, it means that they are not distributing the tax money well, which can ultimately mean that parts of governments bodies in rural areas are not spending enough money to get their local economies growing (which of course will affect the nation’s economy).

And second, and this is the most important thing we need to understand, is that if they do not use all of their budget, the next budgetary meeting with the parliament early next year might come up with less money allocated for the government’s operational cost, which means less money to spent on developing the society. But that’s going too much into the politics.

Point is, it is important for the government to use the budget they’ve allocated with, because it is one of the ways government can actually mobilise the economy (aside from fiscal and monetary decisions) and providing us with the facility that we need. And if we don’t demand them to spend the budget on anything important, we would end up with a government with an overpriced UPS. The government need to spend money, and they need to spend it wisely. How will they know whether they’ve spent it wisely or not? Well they could (and should able to) count on us to remind them.

But, I do not have strong background in economy, so you might want to check that out with your smartest economy student friends.

Anyway all I want to ultimately say is this. DUDE STOP WITH THE IDOLISATION ALREADY! I get it! He is an awesome dude and all. He got the swag, he represents the majority of our people, he is (to some extent) an iron fist, He can repair the system and so on and so forth. But let’s face it, his first year has not been good. It’s not bad either, it’s just okay.

Thing is, the last thing we want to do when somebody is doing an okay job for us is to pat them in the back and say good job. That will only loosen their sense of wanting to impress us. We already made the same mistake on SBY, when we elected him for being likeable and (seemingly) able to get the job done and kept on supporting him like crazy till we elected him again and he loose the sense of “discovery” of some sort and started pissing us off. At the end, he left us with more than $150 billion more of government debt, putting in total of more than $290 billion government debt for Jokowi to deal with in total.

All that I’m saying is that it is okay to support him. But, and it is a big but (pun-intended), we should not loose our sense of criticality. We should understand more that once that guy is in office, he is no longer the guy that we choose; he has become the guy who works for us, who we pay to take care of our home. And hell we have a huge home with a lot of problems.

So the last thing we want to do is to overplease him with something that is his job at the first place. Instead, we should pinpoint to him which area he should concentrate more and make sure that he is doing the job properly. Criticising isn’t always bad when it is constructive. And when Jokowi said that he needed our support, I think it is not a literal support. The kind of support he would have appreciated is the kind of support that helps him knowing which part of the country he should prioritise on.

Because five years are not enough. And it is never going to be enough. Even if he gets re elected, to repair the entire problem in Indonesia is still impossible, because it involves a lot of aspects that takes a lot of times.

Running a country is complicated, and nobody quite actually understands it.

And the last thing that we want to do is to act like a goldfish and be amazed by anything shiny that he shone to our eyes.

If human beings are fundamentally good, no government is necessary; if they are fundamentally bad, any government, being composed of human beings, would be bad also. – Fred Woodworth

On Jokowi’s First Year as President

Today, is exactly 7 days before Indonesian president, Joko Widodo end his first year in office. A year that was never going to be easy, but still full of hopes nevertheless.

It is safe to say that his first year in office, or rather his journey towards and during term is quite a colourful and confusing one. At the very utmost, kind of mediocre really.

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We all remember when Indonesia was seemingly separated into two sides. We all remember the celebration of the people when he was pronounced to be the winner of the presidential race. Jakarta, and most major Indonesian city was turned into seas of optimistic Indonesian for weeks, believing that they’ve chosen a leader that can better their life significantly.

Little that they know, a year later, their idol, their Messiah, their God of some sort, is being scrutinized so much. And by so much I mean, a hella bloody lot. From haze problems, depowering of corruption eradication organisation, through to economic downfall, Jokowi’s supporters has never been tested this hard in terms of their loyalty.

The Indonesian rupiah has never shown such a downfall since the 1998 crisis, a crisis that brought down our dear dictator, the almighty Soeharto.

Bushfire, which has been a problem since 1998, has gotten even worse. And somehow, he is able to make the people who used to just accept this as a yearly problem to be more vocal about it. More embarrassingly, last year during his campaign, he sort of promised those people that this year would be haze free.

KPK, the Indonesia Corruption Eradication Commission, is facing a, what’s going to be, stripping of their power to take corruptors to the court due to series of amendments of the constitution. Proposed by the member of his own party, of which one member said that his final goal was for KPK to no longer exist.

So perhaps Jokowi is not the sort of leader we thought he was?

Or is he?

Well the answer is a bit more complicated than a simple yes and no I’m afraid.

Last week, I attended a meeting with this one quite interesting fellow at work. He came to help us decides the appropriate assessments for Jokowi’s first year, and what sort of reporting we should make on him.

He went on and shared with us a hell lot of aspects relating to the politics of the government. He compared Jokowi’s presidency with the likes of Soeharto and SBY and during that, he mentioned a really interesting point that Indonesia has just shifted from parliamentary system to a presidential system.

Now I know a little, if not nothing about politics, but I think that is a good reasoning on why his decisions sometimes a bit weird for normal people like you and me to receive.

I won’t get into the detail, cause frankly, I don’t know squat about the details. But (correct me if I’m wrong) from what I understand, a Presidential system allows for the two executive powers, which are the parliament and the government to sort of, you know, play politics. One of them does not quite have stronger position than the other so they will need each other. Yet, because of the way politics works, they will despise each other. So what we’re facing right now is a quite similar system with those in the U.S. Sorry for failing to make you understand.

Anyway, what this means, is that Jokowi could not just easily call a shot on something, or decide something. Neither does the parliament. They would have to make an agreement with each other. They would need to go through a series of negotiation with each other just to decide something. This creates such a thing as political sacrifice.

Now if you imagine being him, first you have to make sacrifices in your cabinet, because your coalition member would want a seat in the cabinet. Yet, when you have some business that concerns the parliament, you will have to face a house with a majority controlled by the opposition parties.

So he doesn’t really have quite a room to move about. So when you think about that and look at the cabinet with unknown competent people like Susi Pudjiastuti and Sudirman Said, you asked yourself, how the hell did he get those people there?

Anyway, I’m just confusing you and myself right now, but what I’m trying to say is that, Yes he hasn’t performed quite that well according to our ridiculously high standards. But hell, maybe that is our problem. We have a bloody too high of a standard. We sort of forgot about factoring in other components like the multiple party systems, the parliament and other law worker before making our standards up.

We also forgot that we have chosen a president who did not came from the elite politics, which means, he not quite familiar, perhaps, with the politics of negotiation and bureaucracy. So maybe, he is just still learning the system. After all he just jumped from managing a city into a country, so he is bound to have hiccups.

Yes the economy is shit. Yes the haze problem is getting out of hand, yes corruption is still a problem, and there are more and more issue that appeared lately like dwelling time, transportation safety, foreign worker and religious tolerance, but we must remember that it only has been a year.

Now I’m not saying the cliché. I’m not going to say that we must support him no matter what because we elected him. What I’m going to say is that we should give him time. Of course we’re gonna have to critisize him and scrutinise his actions, decisions, and reactions towards every issue. But the sort of thing we should say to him is the critic that can actually help him, not a blind furry filled hate messages. You know, like those “hey I’m poor, fuck you dude! Do something!” Kind of thing. It should be the responsibility of the leaders to decide what’s best for the society. W

hat we often forgot is that it is the responsibility of the society to give the leaders the option of which they can accommodate and choose from. Because when we run out of money for being unemployed, we don’t blame the accountant do we? Do we blame the fire fighters when the house got burnt down because we forgot to turn off the stove? Yes the president is looking out for the whole country, but the country is our responsibility too, and the relationship that we have with the president is not a one way one.

“Semangatnya yang kecil harus tetap hidup, tapi harus mau diatur, jangan semau gue”

Us as Democratic Police: From Jokowi to Ahok to Jaya Suprana

For the past few days, I stumbled upon quite a number of people ranting on their Facebook accounts defending President Joko Widodo’s for his presidency and his form so far. While I can scarcely find the content that is overly criticising him, the defending statuses paint a picture on how these supporters are more of a worshiper rather than a supporter.

I don’t want to accuse them of anything, nor do I want to criticise his presidency so far. He has done (so far) quite a reasonable run as a president and I am predicting a trend on which he will continually do so. He’s been okay so far, and until he can fully be free from his affiliation with Megawati and PDI-P or even his coalition supporters, he will continue to do so.

The biggest controversy so far is the retraction of his (recently) signed car-purchase allowance decision. Admitting that he did not read the paper on detail, he signed the paper and authorises the decision. His reason is the lack of warning by his ministries.

Now before I will be able to assess or even begin to discuss this issue, I will need to know his day-to-day activities, his hours, the standard procedure on the office and many other things, of which I do not have access to. As far as I’m concerned, this can be a case of either negligence or him being actually busy.

Jokowi Article

Despite of whatever that had happened, he actually (for me) did the right thing by retracting the decision. At least he dealt with the problem and not running from it to dodge humiliation that he is getting at the moment. But of course the problem won’t be there at the first place if Jokowi actually read the paper. This can lead to a never-ending argument to be quite frank.

What I want to highlight more, however, is the way that we are supporting (or not supporting) him. It has almost been a year since the election and our Indonesian society still seems to be separated into two sides, with some moved from Jokowi’s side to “the side that is not Jokowi’s”.

Sadly, this is also true in most of other “democratic” countries around the world. The U.S. has to live with the fact that their congress is divided into two and each side will do its utmost to (sort of) destroy the other side. The American Republican most important policy, for example, is doing everything against president Obama’s and the Democrat’s decisions.

Taking it back to the Indonesian context, our “people” seems to do the same thing by worshiping or hating Joko Widodo. Truth of the matter is, Jokowi did make mistakes and he also made some good decisions and actions. A reasonable person would criticise him for his mistakes and praise him for his achievements so that he is encouraged to get some more achievement. However, what we are doing is (when we hate him) to mock him when he has an achievement and to (when we worship him) blatantly defend him for his mistakes.

When we worshipped him, we tend to talk about his previous achievement when he made a mistake and talk about how smart he is and how transparent he is over and over and over again. On the contrary, when we hate him, we constantly talk about his affiliation with Megawati and PDI-P and how he is just being steered by the (so-called) “powerful-lady”.

While we live in a democratic country and is entitled to any opinion that we want, I feel that what we are doing is nothing good to the running of democracy in our society, other than highlighting the line that differentiate the two sides.

Instead, what we could ideally do is to strip ourselves out from whomever it is that we choose at the election or whomever it is that we are support or admire and start to critically engage with what they are doing. We should not let our admiration, support or affection to our public officer affect our critical view of them, because it is actually our job to judge their work, which would later lead to a decision on whether or not we are satisfied with them and whether we want to vote for them or not.

Just imagine the situation where we are judges, judging at a case in which our own son stole a chicken. Of course this would never happen in real life, but ideally if this does happen, we would want the kid to be punished according to the law despite of his relationship with the judge right?

So does Jokowi’s performance, we should judge it based on the fact specific to each issue that he is handling. If he gets some achievement then we should make sure he would do similar thing at other condition by thanking him. But if he made a mistake, we should remind him so that he will not do it again.

The last thing that we should do is to attack each other for endorsing or condemning what he did.

“The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose.” – Barrack Obama

A good example is Jaya Suprana’s letter to Ahok reminding him about the risk of doing what he is doing. In this case Ahok has more supporter than hatter, which is why after Jaya Suprana’s open letter was published, there are lots of letters that “attacks” Jaya Suprana’s opinion. While (again) everybody is entitled to have his or her own opinion, what some people is missing out is the fact that we are discussing a social issue here, not a figure. But what some of them instead did were discussing Ahok’s figure instead of what the Issue is and what he should do.

At the end we are the one who gets to decide on who will run the country, and this moment is the perfect time to make those judgements. Not at the campaign, not at the election. We should come to the election well prepared with the information that we get from the previous term of presidency (or in other government position as well).

Because after the election, it is not about being on the one or the other side anymore, it is about how we as a unit can make sure that the leader that we have chosen do the right thing and to learn as a unit what kind of leader we need for the next term.

“The sides are being divided now. It’s very obvious. So if you’re on the other side of the fence, you’re suddenly anti-American. Its breeding fear of being on the wrong side. Democracy’s a very fragile thing. You have to take care of democracy. As soon as you stop being responsible to it and allow it to turn into scare tactics, it’s no longer democracy, is it? It’s something else. It may be an inch away from totalitarianism.” – Sam Shepard

Australian perspectives on Indonesian: a case of white supremacy?

It has almost been a month overdue for Andrew Chan’s and Myuran Sukumaran’s execution date and the Indonesian officials are yet to put the two drug convicted in front of firing squad. Indeed, controversy over the decision to put the two criminals under capital punishment has been circulating around the world, with many figures condemning the decisions. From Julie Bishop to Richard Branson, the decision to end Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan’s life for a drug offence in a nation struggling with at least 4.5 million users facing rehabilitation (that is more than the population of New Zealand) and 40 to 50 young people die every day due to the same reason are seen controversial and is yet to be implemented.

Despite of Joko Widodo’s promise to not give clemency to the two convicted for whatever reason, earlier this month, the president himself has commanded the attorney general to listen and consider Australia’s requests. A (what seems somehow) more of a hypocritical move rather than humane move.

barbarian As I’ve already wrote on my previous post, I myself see capital punishment as a useless non-solution to any criminal problem, but I respect the constitution of my own country. It is like having to be an American, they don’t necessarily have to agree with the republican, but they (like it or not) have to accept the republican (no matter how stupid their views on the climate change are) for being part of their country.

Now I don’t want to discuss much whether the capital punishment is justified or not, you can read my opinion regarding this matter on my previous post. I just want to talk about a possible cultural perspectives that are clashing here, and that whether it is relevant to the drama that is still going on.

An oxford Phd candidate has recently posted on The Conversation, questioning the method of research regarding the data that the president is using and questioning its merit on using a questionable data to back up an execution of a convicted criminals. While her accusation is valid, I feel that this is a bit offensive and cocky at her side to see us as the fool, let alone incompetent in gathering our own data.

Though I have to admit, Indonesian are sometimes dodgy at these kind of things. I am no expert in this matter, but to arrive at that assumption without ever getting in touch with the people who are gathering the data seem a bit too arrogant for me. Granted that she is a PhD candidate at oxford, but it is still offensive for me.

The blog post is a dignified version of other critics towards the case. Others has criticises Indonesia as being primitive and inhuman. I’ll admit that in a western culture, which by the way at the past did some even worst thing to us Indonesian (and other culture) during the colonialism, this has increasingly seen as a taboo things to do. The thing is, Indonesian does not fall into that category. Our culture differ vastly from those that the westerners have and as an independent country, we have every rights to cultivate it.

It is so “white” in a way, when Australia and other countries criticise us of doing that and accusing us of being primitive using their personal cultural point of view without considering the Indonesian culture point of views. It is becoming a case of white supremacy for me, and possibly a cultural colonisation, when they are forcing their view on a matter that is related to our society and every aspect of its society including culture.

The idea of “civilised” society that they are using, is (for me) very western and is unfair to other global society. To interfere with other country’s justice process based on that view can be seen as political interference.

Granted that both Sukumaran and Chan are from Australia, but again I should say that they enter this country voluntarily and it is their responsibility to respect the country’s law and its consequences. If I were to enter Australia and to do some sort of offenses to their law, I also has to follow the appropriate law procedure accordingly. And despite of what the public say, the asylum seeker case has proven that Australian government will not care.

What I ultimately want to say, despite of my unclear writing, is that before anybody want to comment about the fate of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, they should consider a perspective not only from their cultural point of view but also from our point of view. We are a very young country, and we are still working on our law and even culture. Despite of the many conflicts that we have come across from colonialization through to civil wars, let’s not forget that most countries (including many western countries) went to the same process. Germany with Nazi, U.S. with the Indians (which still goes on) and even Australia with the Aborigines.

The last thing that we need is an alien interference from a side that doesn’t understand our complex society and its problem. The least that they can do is to obey our law when it applies to them. Because when (if) both Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran release will be a triumph for Australian government and other parties, it could mean a turmoil for the current Indonesian government and the loose of confidence against Joko Widodo as a president. The “coin for Australia” movement is evident enough that you can’t reason with most of Indonesian, to force the clemency would lead to an assumption that our president is weak against the west, and that is the last thing that we want.

“We have to constantly critique imperialist white supremacist patriarchal culture because it is normalized by mass media and rendered unproblematic.” – Bell Hooks

P.S. By the way, I was about to post this writing with that ending when I read about two other Australian caught for similar drug offense with one being sentenced to death. Even though he might get away with a life imprisonment if he behave in the first two year. Either way, I think Australia’s bigger problem is not Indonesia (or any other country) giving death sentences to their citizen, their problem is that their citizen cannot obey other countries’ law. In my opinion, they should focus on that instead.