Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Indonesia is a very rich nation ...

by Tika

Indonesia is a very rich nation, but somehow, we can't seem to enjoy it much because lots of very greedy outsiders always try to steal stuff from us all the time. In the end we are left with nothing. Even our own leaders like to play into the hands of these greedy outsiders so as to benefit their own self-interest. So the cycle perpetuates, making us even poorer as time goes by. So though in fact we are a rich nation, we 'look poor' because circumstances 'beyond our control' made us that way.

In the biological research community, we always get paranoid when some western research scientist tries to come in and 'study' a so called Indonesian specimen. We always think that this 'specimen' belong to us and only we have the right to study it, they are just violators of the rights of all Indonesians! This stems from the attitude that we think we are rich, that we own something that we have yet to get something out of, which I think is a very unproductive way of thinking.

Though it makes sense that Indonesians should be real paranoid people (as we have been slave to a huge capitalistic enterprise for hundreds of years), I don't believe that perpetuating the idea that Indonesia is 'actually a rich country' is productive at all. Certainly this 'rhetoric' has been out there for a long time, but I haven't experienced any real 'progress' coming out from it. In fact, I see this as something that is actually making a negative impact on the attitude of many Indonesians, so much so that many end up just giving up and just act negative about everything. I think this happens because such an idea perpetuates the feeling that things are really out of control and no one can do anything about it. At least, when I think this way, it just spoils my day!

Of course there are people out there to get us, and a lot of Indonesian leaders are really corrupt, evil and greedy, making us all really miserable. And things are really out of control. Most Indonesians know this as they are bombarded by this kind of stuff everyday. This is Indonesia's reality.

But I say we should just try to swallow in this perpetual attitude of self pity and try to do some real practical work. First of, we should not keep on saying that we are 'actually' rich people with a giant conspiracy hanging over our head. Sure there is a giant conspiracy, but you can't really do anything much by just agonizing about it all the time. I think one way to try to forget about our miserable fate is to forget about how 'actually rich' we are and face the fact that in practicality, we are really very poor people. We are poor, not just because we can't really feed ourselves, but also because most of the time we can't harness the resources around us to make us be able to find ways to feed ourselves.

So having a freely swimming fish in our waters doesn't make us rich if we can't catch it! It is out there for anyone to take, really, even if there is some political geographic boundary of state ownership, in the real world, the fish is out there for anyone to take. If some greedy outsider or corrupt leader catches it before one of us do, then that is just tough! We are poor people because most of us cannot find ways to catch the fish first and make something out of it. It is not enough to have the fish swimming in our waters. We shouldn't then try to weasel our way out of this predicament by saying that it is some evil doer fault that is beyond our control, some nasty government body, some evil outsider fault. Sure they have something to do with this, perhaps everything to do with this, but we shouldn't let them spoil our day.

So my suggestion is, one practical way of making some moves out of our miserable 'fate' is to not think that we are actually rich, but think that we are really very poor people. We don't really have goldmines out there that is just waiting for us to 'take'. The fish will never be ours if we just let it swim and complain anytime someone else catches it. It was never ours to begin with! We are not rich people, we are definitely poor. By thinking that we are poor, maybe it will help us get going and actually make us do things beyond our own expectations to physically 'go grab that fish'. As we do this, perhaps someday, we can be actual rich people in the flesh, not just imaginary bodies of rich people who physically look poor.

So I guess what I am saying is that being paranoid is ok, in fact necessary, but the way we have been going about it has not been helpful at all. At least for me, thinking in the back of my mind that there are vast Indonesian riches out there just waiting for me to just turn into gold, yet some evil body is just standing in the way of my getting at it, has not helped me to do anything but whine. We need to channel our paranoia into more productive and practical means. So go grab that fish!


adit said...

I quite agree with what you're writing here. I guess the concept of "we are a rich nation" is always related to our natural and cultural resources, never actually in an economical perspective.

It seems there's a sense of romanticism every time we mention we are a rich nation. People seem to be indulged with this richness and tend to become lazy to make a better use of what we have.

On another note, I wonder, have you ever conducted a social study why Indonesians tend to look down on Indonesia? Even myself do it. We, as a nation, seem to have better appreciation on bad things that happen to Indonesia rather than acknowledging accomplishments.

Btw... I linked your blog to mine :) It's nice to have smart people, like you guys, around hehehe..

Admiral said...

Saya tdk se7!

Perhaps you should begin by asking why so many always blame "outsiders" first and foremost for the lack of development in Indonesia.

The main problem is property. The people who are rich in Indonesia, the vast majority being Indonesians, and/or people with Chinese heritage, DO NOT WANT others getting rich because they are afraid it will cut into their pie. This has happened in every other country, too, but in some, like the West, the middle and lower classes were able to get power.

If it takes a lot of money and a lot of time to set up a legitimate business, as it does in Indonesia, then you will not be able to make sustainable profits that will allow one to become socially mobile. Mortgages are hard to come by in the country and that is the main method by which people move up in class in the West.

That is a completely internal cause of underdevelopment, not external at all. Hernando de Soto's The Mystery of Capital (he includes some material on Indonesia) lays out the case persuasively.

Tika said...

adit: "We, as a nation, seem to have better appreciation on bad things that happen to Indonesia rather than acknowledging accomplishments."

Indonesians are very dark people..we like to be negative about everything. I think this is definitely something to do with being colonized for so many years, even before that, being under tyranical rule of monarchies that existed based on the idea that backstabbers rule (ie. arok dedes saga).

About social study of this problem, I (tika) am biologist so this writing of mine has no social-empirical bearing to it, though alternate writer of blog is a sociologist (roby).

Thank you for linking our blog to yours, nice to meet you.

I don't really get what you are trying to say. I don't see why my writing is even in opposite of your idea:
"That is a completely internal cause of underdevelopment, not external at all."

I am totally in agreement that the problem is MOSTLY internal not external, which is the core idea behind the writing! That the rhetoric amongst indonesians "we are rich"is what I think is promoting the idea that things are happening because of outsiders, when in fact, the issue is mostly internal.

Perhaps you mean that it is not the rhetoric "of Indonesians thinking we rich" that is problematic, but the rhetoric that "some people shouldn't be rich"? Well, I think many things can be playing into the problem of Indonesia. I am just highlighting one of the most common conception spreading like wildfire into most Indonesian minds. Which can end up propagating the idea within a certain group of people thinking that 'some people cannot be rich' and manifesting into the hoarding of property from outsiders and people of 'lower' classes of Indonesian society. There are many more manifestations of this rhetoric.

Iwan Syahril said...

so, to go and grab the fish, we need to, first, want to grab the fish, and second, build the capacity to grab the fish. also, along with your main idea, we need to get rid of any thoughts that some magic, instead of hard work, will make it happen. we need to learn to earn something and to value quality process and quality work. and education plays a major role in this capacity and character building, which enable us, not only to grab the fish, but perhaps also to create new fish.

nice writing tika. we need no more people who talk the talk, rather the ones who walk the talk.