Indonesia Anonymus

We are a group of Indonesians, ranting about our beloved country. This blog is a result of many people grumbling about many things in many ways.
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Anonymus is the Latin word for anonymous, the correct English spelling. The Latin spelling, however, is traditionally used by scholars in the humanities to refer to an ancient writer whose name is not known, or to a manuscript of their work. Read more at Wikipedia.

Our blog in Bahasa Indonesia (but rarely updated) can be found here.

Monday, November 14, 2005

That's wrong. That's very wrong.

Last week a bunch of us were fortunate enough to get a chance to fly to Vienna Austria for a work meeting.
It was a pleasant short visit, and the city is as stunning as you see in travel photos.
But this is not a travel blog, so we won't go on about that.
What we will tell you instead is our encounter with a grocery storekeeper Daniela.

Daniela works at a small grocery store around the corner of where we stayed during our visit. Her shift starts early in the morning, so as part of her job she would clean up the store and get it ready for business. If the weather allows, she would also setup a table outside the store, arrange fruits for display. Buyers will then pick up the fruits they want and pay inside. (the store is a one man show, with Daniela doing everything, including manning the cash register).

One day we went to her store to get some fruits for breakfast, and that was when we got to know her. Unlike many Austrians we know, Daniela is very chatty, and after a few minutes we were talking as if we were good friends. We even joined in arranging apples, oranges and grapes outside her store.

It was then, when one of us said something that makes us think all the way until now. When we were arranging the fruits outside her store, one of us said something like this:
"You know Daniela, this method of selling will not work in Jakarta,"
Daniela looked up with a question mark on her face. "Oh? Why?"
And almost all of us answered in unison : "Because everything will be gone in 5 minutes and you won't get a dime."
Daniela was still lost, so we explained further: "If you put these stuff outside like this with nobody watching them, people will easily steal them. Passers by will just take whatever they want and leave without paying."
"But that's wrong." Daniela replied. "That's very wrong."

And that, my friends, was when we regret saying those things. As much as it is true, we still love our country so much we don't want Daniela to think that our society consider stealing as normal. We are not a bunch of thieves. Or are we?

Now don't get us wrong. We know we all are not thieves and we know that although we see fruits outside a store in a Jakarta street sitting unattended, we will not steal them. No we won't. Not in a million years. But here's what's interesting : We also know that they WILL be stolen. In fact, we are almost 100% sure that they will get stolen, and we will be very very surprise if at the end of the day they didn't. That would be really strange and 'not normal'.
So even if we don't steal, we still think it is normal.
And guess what. If they are stolen, instead of blaming the thief, we would blame the store for being an idiot. "What do you expect if you leave your merchandise unattended. Of course someone will snatch them.. That's just stupid."

Well my friend, no it is not stupid. What's stupid is thinking that it is normal that if you leave stuff unattended, someone will steal it.
Folks, theft is not normal and it should not be.

You see, it is all about trust. Daniela's way of selling her apples and oranges in front of her store is based on this and this only. A trust that people who would like to have her fruits will take them inside and pay. A trust that if they take three, they will pay for three, and not pay for one with the rest hidden somewhere in their coat.

Trust, my friend, is what we no longer have. We think people are out there to get us. They are after our property, our money, our jobs.

And if trust is earned, not given, we are certainly not trying to earn it. Look at some of our members of parliament. Is giving themselves expensive cars when people are suffering a way of gaining trust? [1] Look at our government. Is it keeping its campaign promises to gain our trust?
For God sake, look at ourselves. We think stealing is normal.

Maybe that's why our country is ranked 137 of 158 in Corruption Perceptions Index [2]. We are in fact more corrupt than Burundi, Congo, Papua New Guinea and Ethiopia.

Trust is hard to come by and I think we should start to build it again from scratch. If you are a member of the ruling government, you know what to do. If you are a member of parliament, you know what to do.
If you are just common folks, like us, well, just look around. Do you trust your neighbors? Come to think of it, do your neighbors trust YOU? Got you thinking right there.
So let's start. We have to work together here. Easy? Of course not. Difficult? Not really. Daniela's community has it. If they can we can.

Because we don't want our kids to think that stealing is normal. Instead, we want them to be able to say: "That's wrong. That's very wrong."

[1] Riau Spending Spree - Indonesia Today by Yosef Ardi
[2] Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2005

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