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25.10.13

Imitating To Death

ondel-ondel

I've seen a very particular change in Indonesians and the only cause I can make fit every case is food.  In the past six years, I have seen Indonesians get fatter and children become more hyperactive and distracted.  There are a number of possible causes, which we'll look at, but the one that seems to fit every case is a change in diet based on advancing economic conditions.

The three causes to which I can attribute the changes in folks here are electronic gee-gaws, maids and nannies, and food quality.  Each has its own distinct contribution to the way people are changing here, but food cuts all of them.

First, the electronic gee-gaws are a curse on humanity.  To a great extent, kids have become so engrossed in them that they hardly notice what most of us refer to as 'the real world'.  A bit of people watching at the local mall finds nearly everyone walking around in a daze as they focus on cell phones, tablets and other 'lights and wires in a box'.  They literally trip over each other or narrowly avoid colliding because they can hardly look up from their electronic revelry.

Watching TeeVee and movies causes folks to become bored with real life.  The act of writing and editing programs is one of distilling time.  All the little side-trips and time used to go from place to place are magically taken out so that only the most interesting and active parts of life are portrayed.  Having grown up on a steady diet of TeeVee, movies and games, kids become bored incredibly fast because real life is much slower and unfiltered by editing.  They grow bored almost instantly when they can't cut to the next action scene, or fast-forward through the slow bits.

They have lost the ability to communicate in analogue form.   I have witnessed my own family sitting at the dinner table texting and BBMing each other, rather than simply talk across the table.  Reality is no longer what we are all immersed in, it is what comes from a lighted box.  I also notice students, forbidden to use electronic devices (at least in my classes), going through a form of withdrawl.  They are distracted and agitated by the inability to text and BBM their classmates and whoever else is in their electronic universes.

The second problem is one that affects any group of economically advantaged folks.  The Western 1%ers have the same problem, there's just more of them here.  By long tradition, middle-class Indonesians on up hire entire armies of domestic servants.  There are nannies for the children, maids for Mom and drivers/valets for Dad.  No one has to do anything for themselves, they simply speak the command and *POOF* it is done.

The main problem are the nannies.  Parents wander through life oblivious to their children because young women are charged with chasing the kids around like 3D shadows.  Parents don't demand strict behavior and discipline from their children because it is the maid's duty to take care of all the mundane chores.  Instead of sitting at the table to eat, the nanny chases the kid around with a bowl of rice, taking every opporutnity to shovel in a spoonful when the child pauses long enough.  If the child gets dirty, the nanny whips out a fresh outfit from the ubiquitous backpack and *PRESTO*, all clean.  No need for self-discipline, since the parents only interact with the children for a few minutes of the day.  The rest of the time the 3D shadow is there.

Later, when the children enter school and are expected  to sit quietly and behave, they have no concept of how to do this.  They have spent their entire lives having every little inconvenience catered to and have come to see most folks other than their parents as servants who chase them around cleaning up their messes.

As a result of gee-gaws and nannies, young Indonesians have serious attention deficit and impulse control issues.  They have been raised like nascent stars with orbiting devices and servants to distract and entertain them.  When it come to paying close attention for 40 minutes at a time, or sitting in one spot and engaging in dialogue, they are nearly incapable of it.  Life moves too slow and they don't know how to respond without clicking something.

The worst influence on Indonesia's younger folks has to be food.  Above a certain income level, the diets have become almost exclusively processed foods.  Where once most Indonesians ate freshly picked or slaughtered foods, now they exist on canned diets and fast food junk.  They've gone from healthy living food to things that have been boiled, soiled and stamped.

Processed foods have the life cooked out of them.  All bacteria must be killed before canning, and long cooking times remove vast quantities of flavor and nutrition.  To compensate, artificial flavors, preservatives and other noxious chemicals are added: artificial flavors, color dyes, MSG, huge quantities of refined salt and sugar.

Consequently, Indonesian waistlines are rapidly expanding, heart disease and diabetes are on the rise, and children are becoming chemical waste dumps.  Overloaded by sugar and toxic chemicals, children's brains are forced into overload.  Added chemicals in the food break down into various toxins that affect brain function and autonomous body systems.  Fats, sodium and chlorine swamp the blood stream.  As a consequence, overall health declines and mental functions get short-circuited.  A child's body, overloaded with refined sugars, becomes a furnace cranking out energy to the point of nervous overload.

As Indonesians become wealthier and the middle class grows, they are adopting the absolute worst of Western culture, things they once watched with envy on TeeVee and in the movies are now within their reach.  McDonald's meals, once too expensive for the average Indonesian, became status symbols that now everyone consumes to show their newly obtained status. 

It's an unfortunate result of the infusion of Western media and entertainment that much of the world sees our unhealthiest habits as symbols of attainment.  One of the most successful exports of Western civilization is deadly food.  Complicite with media, the food industry has expanded (along with waistlines) into so-called 'emerging' nations.

Indonesia would do well to rethink its values.  Using gee-gaws as educational and developmental tools rather than mindless distractions would be a good start.  Reversing the trend of consigning their children to servants and taking a more active role in interacting and disciplining their children would help a lot, especially if they want their children to get the fullest benefit from their education.

Most importantly, Indonesians must rethink their diets.  One of the many benefits of living on the equator is fresh fruits and vegetables year-round.  Visiting the local pasar for fresh meats would bring immediate benefit, as well.  Finally, getting away from processed fast foods would have life-long benefits for health and mental well-being.

Indonesians must resist the temptation of using media as a guide to status.  Adopting the absolute worst habits of Western civilization as symbols of wealth is a dangerous habit in the long term.  Instead, apply the greater economic ability, increased educational options and increasing global attention to improve the best of native Indonesian life and export that to the world.

If Western lifestyles were so good, then there would not be the health crises, the economic decline and general cultural decay of the West seen today.  Yes, it is tempting because the media make it look like so much fun and so terribly interesting, but that is a function of Madison Ave. sales jobs, not reality.  All the gee-gaws you can imagine won't change the fact that we must exist in the here and now.

Once upon a time, cars were a status symbol for Indonesians.  With the advancing economy, now millions of people own at least one and Indonesia's cities are clogged to the point of grid-lock with cars.  What benefit is status if you can't get from one part of town to another to do business, which in turn pays for the better economy?  If this is happening to the cities, imagine what is happening to your body with the influx of chemicals and fats from a changing diet.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it only works until you follow the other guy off the cliff.