Thursday, February 23, 2012

Anxious nation

It all started with this guy's writing. I found it on my friend's Facebook account. I thought the title was interesting since I just experienced the same thing quite recently before I found this story. It's probably one of the harshest stories about Jakarta (and/or Indonesia) that I've read recently. The writer, Andre Vltchek, wrote Jakarta as "the perfect pacifist city". That alone has triggered some questions. He then went on telling his experience riding the city train. The reliable PT KAI and its flocks of metal cages running on tracks have fascinated the writer to a certain degree of skepticism.

I have several times had the chance to experience the city train in Jakarta, or what we named as "kereta komuter" because people use the train to commute from Jakarta-Bogor and all of the other places that exist between Jakarta and Bogor. I used the train to go Depok when there wasn't kereta komuter available yet and another time with kereta komuter to an area called Lenteng Agung. The first trip was on an economy train with no AC and it was moderately full. Lots of people were trying to sell you some shit that you didn't need... the usual. Since I was traveling alone and a bit worried with local copet (pickpockets), I stood close to the door. It was open, of course. How could anyone breathe if it was closed? We'd be dead in 10 minutes. Anyway, standing close to the open door gave me a full access of outside view. It wasn't great. It's almost accepted as a normality to see slum areas close to any railways in Jakarta. And not only in Jakarta. Of course, when the president or other sleazy top government officials go for a train ride for some unknown reasons, the illegal settlements along the railway will magically disappear. And magically reappear maybe two weeks after.

The second trip to Lenteng Agung wasn't that much different. I took the commuter train, hoping I would have a bit humane trip to a punk community's house. It was air-conditioned, but since I left on rush hours, I was squashed by too many people in the train. It's clear that we need better public transportation. Referring to Vltchek's article, there have been too many abandoned plans for better infrastructure especially for improving public transportation in Jakarta. Can one still hope after seeing too many failures?

Vltchek, in his long article, said, "It feels that the entire nation, including its capital, gave up long time ago. People are living their lives in this monstrous megacity, not even bothering to demand, to protest or to complain."
I reckon that's one of the hardest challenge faced by this nation. Just like the slum areas on the railways, does the government actually make a real action to improve the people's life? No, city officials will just destroy their shacks and temporary houses when it's time for an official visit. I don't know how the poor may think or feel about the way the government treats the poverty issue. Are they mad? Are they disappointed? Or maybe they just don't give a damn anymore and just find a way to survive today and tomorrow? Vltchek thought that Indonesian people, Jakarta people in particular, have given up all hope for any improvement. Is this true? If yes, I wish the predicted mega-flood in Jakarta would come sooner (and as I'm writing this, it's raining like crazy outside).

Maybe about a week ago, I went to a film festival. The opening movie titled Negeri Di Bawah Kabut tells how climate change changes the life of farmers in one village in Central Java. Related to what I have written so far, this movie shows me how poor Indonesian farmers are. Of course, I've known this fact for some time, but this movie kinda updated me on how still poor so many people in Indonesia are until this very day. They can't send their kids to school because they can't pay the "uniform" money, a compulsory for Indonesian students. Another form of government's idiocy and insensitivity addressing the country's problem.

Watching the movie was like a slap on the face. At least for me. I realised how maybe I don't value things like I should do. One million and three hundreds rupiah means another chance to plant the next batch of vegetables. One million and three hundred rupiah in Jakarta means you can't live in a rented room for a month and eat properly. Of course Jakarta and one remote village somewhere in Central Java IS different. It's the same money, yet it has different value.

Can Indonesia improve wholly? Will the government take care the poor and helpless just like what it's written in the constitutions? I honestly don't know. One friend even said too many people are fed up: It's better to think what one should do tomorrow at work than thinking about the country's problems. So, how will Indonesia and its people end up in the future if we all are fed up?

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