The Chinese say it is a curse to live in interesting times. I rather see it as my native environment.
I was born into the maelstrom known as the 60s in America. There was great social and cultural upheaval then.olitics split between the old and the new. Assassinations were common. The coup d'etat was king.
I was only old enough to appreciate the change in tides. I listened go Dylan and Carlin, but it was years before I could put context with them. My parents were W
Making me a Boomer, but many of my contemporaries' parents were Korea or Viet Nam. That placed me solidly on tbe cusp of history.
All my life, i have come to various cultures either before or after thdy have convulsed. I lived in Dublin before the Great Boom. I arrived in Prague a year after the Velvet Revolution. I was in Belize and Guatemala during a truce. I was 43 miles outside Iran when the ayatolahs took over. Always a day late and a dollar short.
I've always wanted to be in the middle of interesting times, and it seems I've been thrust into the middle of them.
As ba kground, I have always wanted to come to Indonesia. I can distinctly remember the desire in 2nd grade sociology class. I was jealous of any acquaintance who got near here. One could say I was destined to be here now, as Ram Das would say.
And so it happens in my second half-century, I am consigned go be in Indonesia at the Turning Point. Like Brer Rabbit, I've been thrown into the briar patch.
For centuries, Indonesia has been dominated by other cultures and through the auspices of religion and economics, has been kept a superstitious and provincial land. When I arrived here, I was hard pressed to find an Indonesian who had traveled abroad, nlw I'm equally hard pressed to find one who hasn't.
By the same token, the internet has brought a tidal wave of ideas and connections from the outside world that threaten the very fabric of life here. As a consequence, the leadership finds itself in a position of clamping down on society or facing their own irrelevance. As a result, it is seen as both authoritarian and archaic, neither of which engenders popular support. In fact, Indonesia is a perfect microcosm of the world at large at this crux of history.
Essentially what is happening here is a clash of ideologies not unlike the US in the 60s. A younger generation, increasingly flush with money and with ideas they have picked up from a wide variety of sources, are looking at their traditional society and asking, "Why?" For better or worse, they are going to change their country and their culture. It is a foregone conclusion. It is the embodiment of the old saying, "How are you going to keep them on the farm once they've seen Paris?"
A result of this growing wave of change is the authorities trying to control the level and pitch of the change. For instance, recent government declarations have cut back on science, languages and arts in schools, and demanded more (Islamic) religious training. The sense one gets from the ruling majority is that they are losing their grip on the young. The kids are getting too much knowledge and not enough indoctrination. The question remains how far the authorities are willing to go to contain what they view as a threat?
We have seen in history what happens when this sort of change occurs in society. The Roman church launched the Inquisition and held bake sales with human dissenters. The Protestant Revolution proved no less violent. In more recent times, the 60s produced violent clashes between an old generation hell-bent on keeping the kids in line, and the kids who were hell-bent on erasing the line.
Indonesia is not alone. The new prosperity is changing a lot of cultures throughout the eastern hemisphere. Cultures which have been poverty-ridden and isolated for centuries are finding themselves flush with money and opportunities, and unwilling to sit still for the institutions perceived as having kept them in the dark for centuries, in many cases.
Curiously, the West is facing much the same forces of history, only at a much more advanced state. In western countries, there has been a 100-year-long revolution taking place that began with World War 1. It is a sweeping an fundamental upheaval in the fabric of society due to new technologies, new knowledge and new experiences.
The profundity of changes wrought by such inventions as the internet are severely overlooked by a great many people. Gutenberg's press was the seed for the Protestant Revolution when it made the Bible accessable to the common man. In the same way, the internet has brought the collected knowledge of Mankind to the screens of any computer or mobile device. That kind of power injected into society cannot be underestimated.
There is no doubt we are facing a global cataclysm as the forces of control try to maintain their iron grip on masses of people who are now instantly privy to the vast body of knowledge and wisdom that has been kept hidden for centuries. Furthermore, there is now a unique historical ability to generate global consensus outside the auspices of traditional power bases. That is an awesome wave of destiny heading for our cultural shores.
In physics, it can be said that all of Creation is little more than manifest information. All of reality is simply clumps of data acting semi-autonomously to seek more information and take part in the creative process of assembling that information into knowledge.
Now imagine that reality suddenly being infused with massive amounts of new information. It would be like thrown gasoline on a fire. It is a catalyst for change (and one assumes...growth). In a sense, we are witness to a sudden swarm of insects due to past rainfall and the availability of increased food sources. Though we experience the swarm as a 'sudden' event, the variables which created it have taken a year or more to accumulate.
Where we are now is a very delicate stage in history. Authorities are happy with their cushy and exclusive roles in society. It is a given that power is a drug, and a very addictive one at that. The authorities always react by first trying to put the genie back in the bottle, and failing that, they clamp down violently on their power bases. The inevitable result, of course, is their own destruction and replacement.
History is replete with examples where a massive infusion of information into society has caused profound long-term upheaval and change. We are at that point now, but on a scale never before witnessed. The changes are not regional, but global, and the response from authorities will be equal in scale and scope. There is no doubt that the forces of change will win out, but it remains to be seen how far the power elite will go to preserve their stations of privilege. Given past experience, mass killings and bloody rebellion are not unthinkable.
What we can hope is that the infusion of all this information brings with it a certain kind of mass wisdom. Perhaps the authorities will see the futility of their efforts to maintain control, and perhaps the masses will see the futility of mass destruction we call revolution, but I hardly doubt it, human nature being what it is.
In many ways, current events are very exciting. It is the birth pangs of something redically new in our common experience. However, anyone who has experienced birth knows the pain, conflicting emotions and mess involved.
As for Indonesia, the power structure here has been based on Islam for the past 600 years. Furthermore, Islam is the last remaining major religion that has not gone through a major reformation. As such, Islam is facing its reformation at a time when the entire world is changing in a myriad of ways. A billion people may soon be battling changes to their religion, as well as to society as a whole on a global scale.
It is now inevitable that the changes begun during World War 1 with the end of monarchy will continue apace for the next several decades. The scale and scope of the changes ensures that virtually no one will escape the turmoil. And we can safely assume that the structures and methods of power and control will not stand in the face of what is coming. So there can only be one conclusion...