Here Thar Be Monsters!

From the other side of the argument to the other side of the planet, read in over 149 countries and 17 languages. We bring you news and opinion with an IndoTex® flavor. Be sure to check out the Home Site. Send thoughts and comments to, and tell all your friends. Sampai jumpa, y'all.


On The Cusp

I was in Prague the year after the Velvet Revolution. I stood in front of the John Lennon wall and looked at all the rebuilding and cleaning up after decades of Soviet decay. The excitement was palpable and you could feel the energy of the nation as it surveyed the future and liked what it saw.

It was a heady time there and then, with bursts of creativity and limitless horizons. The arts exploded and a poet, Vaclav Havel, had taken the reigns of power. The dead wood had been cleared away, and now the garden could florish and the vital middle class would thrive.

I arrived in Indonesia ten years after the fall of Soeharto. It was a mean and ugly time back then. I have listened to first-hand accounts of fear and rage, stories of riots and looting. But the result has been another clearing of dead wood, and a great awakening of fresh blood and energy. Indonesia sees itself now standing at the threshold of global prominance, and likes what it sees.

There is a boom in the middle class here and a vital energy that infuses the culture. People are finding a new experience called self-determination and they are excited by its possibilities.

Imagine you live in the early 1900s in America. The nation is primarily rural and agricultural. There are pockets of electrified wonders and cars are a new and wonderous thing.

Now imagine that you leap-frog to the 1950s, where suddenly America stands at the head of nations as an economic powerhouse, with a vast and growing middle class full of vitality and creativity, yet struggling to hold on to conservative values and traditions.

If you can conjure that mental image and allow the feeling of that kind of sea-state change within your neighbors and society, then you can start to imagine what it feels like to be here now.

Leap-frog is fun and exciting, but there is an element of danger. Once you have catapulted into the air, you are committed to whatever vector you were on when you left the ground. It is extremely difficult to change direction once you are unbounded. Where you land is entirely dependent on where you took off, and should you realize new hazards mid-flight that were invisible when you leaped, you must decide quickly what must be done before making contact with the ground again.

Indonesia is at the precise moment when it had hit full stride, placed its hands on the hips of the 'frog,' and is just at the cusp of going into full flight. The country has one last, albeit brief, moment to adjust course before launching into the rare air of the world stage. Now is the moment to look ahead and see what other players have done, both right and wrong.

Indonesia is a unique case, in that it contains cultures of vastly differrent wants and needs. There are peoples here who literally span the course of human development, from just at the brink of Stone Age up to ultra-high tech virtual reality. All of these cultures are struggling to maintain their traditions while looking to join the properity that is infusing the country as a whole.

It is at this precise moment that Indonesia must look at where the previous players have landed, and decide whether it wishes to go that way, or adjust its vector.

Europe went the way of moral decay and spiritual disease, which has eaten its heart and left a hollow carcass. America went the way of unbridled greed and consumeristic self-absorption. The German and Soviet reichs collapsed under the weight of power-lust and overly centralized concentration of it.

Indonesia must ask itself what outcome it wants. It must look carefully at the global history of the West and of its immediate neighbor China. The people must steer a course between greed and me-too-ism, and outright political despotism. It must walk the delicate balance of regional autonomy and national interests.

If Indonesia allows the severe concentration of wealth and power that is found in America and Russia, then it will dissolve into a fascist oligarchy of control freaks. If it abandons its rich traditions and cultural heritage, then it will become another Europe without moral compass. And if it creates a society that chases things rather than ideas, then it will be at the mercy of those who dangle the things in front of them.

The ongoing Gayus case here illustrates perfectly Ovid's haunting admonition:
"Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?"
Who watches the watchers?

For those unfamiliar with the Gayus case, imagine Eliot Ness has just bagged the tax accountant of Al Capone. While the accountant is in protective custody awaiting trial, he is able to use his great resources to bribe Eliot to let him out on weekend furlogh to go meet Al in Atlantic City for gun and games before the legal proceedings begin.

Centralized government and corporate power can not and must not be trusted. The only authority able to judge what is best for the individual is the individual. If the individual cedes too much power and authority to others, then one day the individual will wake up and find he has no power and no authority. A profound distrust of other men and their institutions is healthy and necessary to prevent such abberations as Stalin, Hitler or the gross situation in America now.

As the Founders of the united States realized, power is best kept at the local and regional level, where it can be monitored and controlled. If it is allowed to leak into a central pool, it will someday drown you in your sleep.

Indonesia has placed its hands on the hips of the 'frog.' It is poised to leap into the air to experience the joy of boundless flight, like the garuda soaring on updrafts, effortlessly gliding over the land. But, the wise man remembers that even the garuda must land sometime, and having a clear idea of where that landing will be can mean the difference between success and miserable failure.

It is not enough to wish and dream. In Western culture, we speak of the ant and the grasshopper. The ant labors while the sun shines and builds its nest and reserves, so when the winter comes, it is ready. The grasshopper plays and doesn't have a care for what the future holds, and so when the snow comes, it dies.

Consider this:

When a pilot or sailor is preparing to let go of the ground, he makes a detailed plan, checks the weather reports, checks the charts for known obstacles, and has a firm idea of where he wants to go before slipping the surly gonds of Earth.

Now is the time for Indonesia to use its schools and institutions, not to parrot globalist propaganda, like warming and other rubbish, but to explore with a clear eye what has come before, and plot a course to avoid the graveyards of ships. That's not to say there won't be new hazards, but at least the known ones will be in focus.

It's an exciting time to live here. The future is wide open and Indonesia has the talent and the materials it needs to become a global economic player in its own right, not as the colony of some distant force. It must take care, adn the people must educate themselves, and not trust others to lead. Remember, if the outside world had done such a great job, why would the world be in such a mess now?

Indonesia must decide what it wants for itself, and that decision should enrich and empower all the people, not just a priviledged few. This country has been blessed with natual wealth and intuitive creativity. Use is wisely and carefully.

Leap-frog was one of my favorite games as a kid. We'd all spend hours playing it on a warm summer afternoon. But, I quickly learned that it was not just me who controlled my launch, but the 'frog' on whose back I broke free of Earth.

Do you trust your 'frog?'

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave your own view of The Far Side.