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.
Feedback: indonesia.anonymus at gmail dot com


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, May 29, 2006

In Yogya

We are in Yogya at the moment, and there will be no blogging for maybe a long long while.

In the meantime, if you are looking for ways to help the beloved Yogyakartans, check out the links below:

Or if you rather go for something more international, you can always go to

Do find ways to help, no matter how small. It counts.

Thank you, Jakartass, for the link you sent us.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

You the Expert?

Imagine this situation:
You were at a tv station, waiting to be interviewed for a job. Then one producer grabbed you and took you to a studio, where you were introduced as an expert and interviewed on live TV watched by millions worldwide.

How do you think you'd handle that?

One man did just fine. Guy Goma was put in that situation by the BBC News 24. He was waiting to be interviewed for a computer job, and one producer mistakenly thought he was Guy Kewne, the editor of, who was actually waiting at the other reception.

Same Guy, different guy.
Yet, he did fine. Sure he was nervous (he initially thought the whole charades was part of his job interview), but then he gathered his confidence and made it through. Convincingly too.
To top it off, Mr. Goma is not even a native english speaker. He started speaking english only 4 years ago.

John Tierney's column in the Herald Tribune on Mr. Goma [1] said:
His performance made it clear that television networks have been wasting money on professional commentators.

Don't we all agree.

Aren't we all sick of all this so-called experts on Indonesian tv channels, talking about things that we all already know, and giving you opinions that even 1st year university students would say "that's it? that's all you've got to say? Even I can say that."

Doctor this, doctor that, PhD this PhD that. Expert in this, expert in that.
If they are so smart, how come they can't make us love them?
Talking heads.

Now we found out that one man with no preparation and no expertise on the subject can do just fine.

Read about Mr. Goma here, here and here.

To watch the interview, click here.

[1] International Herald Tribune, May 22, 2006, page 8

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Don't know much about geography

Heard about The National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs 2006 Geographic Literacy Study yet [1]?
It's a survey of 18-to-24-year-old Americans, on their geography knowledge.

Some of the findings below:

  • Six in ten (63%) cannot find Iraq or Saudi Arabia on a map of the Middle East

  • 75% cannot find Iran and Israel

  • Nine in ten (88%) cannot find Afghanistan on a map of Asia

  • 20% place Sudan in Asia and 10% put it in Europe

  • 50% cannot find New York State

Well, well, well. How about that. Can't find New York state?
And we love how they thought Sudan is in Europe.

But wait before we laugh at them. How about young Indonesians?
Well, we cannot interview 510 young people like what National Geographic did, but just now 10 students from a university in Jakarta came for a visit. They are organizing a cultural event and would like us to be their sponsor.
Great. Time for our silly little experiment. We asked one colleague to do a quick survey.

The result:

  • Four in ten think Semarang is in East Java.

  • Three in ten think Makassar and Ujung Pandang are two different cities

  • Six in ten think Balikpapan is in Sumatra

  • Nobody has the faintest idea where Palangkaraya is...

That is just pathetic. They are doing slightly better on the world map, but not enough to cheer us up.

We refused to sponsor their event.

[1] National Geographic News - Young Americans Geographically Illiterate, Survey Suggests

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Ibu Murni and the Constitution

Years back we had the priviledge to meet one remarkable woman, and we would like you to know her too.

Meet Ibu Murni. A single mother, with one teenage son. Her husband left her not long after the son was born, and she never heard of him since.
Raising a kid on her own, she worked 3 jobs: Cleaning lady during the day, selling food to night-shift factory workers at night, and in the middle of those, selling snacks to office workers in our building. This was where we met her.

5 pm, 3rd floor, behind the elevator, near the pantry. There she was, everyday. And her arem-arem (steamed-rice, with stuffings inside, wrapped in banana leaves) was simply the best in the world.

From time to time, she had her son tagging along, helping out, sometimes still in his high-school uniform. We often had a chat with Ibu Murni while we enjoyed the hot snack in the pantry, and if the son was there, we would quiz him on whatever he learned at school that day, or simply forced him to practice his english. It was fun and certainly brighten up our otherwise a really boring day.

Really proud of her son, we could not forget what she always said every time we met her and talked about her son's education:

"I will make sure my child receives the best education even if it kills me."

The hell she did.
Not only her son went to one of the best private school, he also took english course after school, and classical guitar lessons twice a week.
Ibu Murni made sure she has all the money to pay for them. Hence the 3 jobs.
(When we offered to share some of her burden and contribute to her son's education, she turned it down: "Give your money to those who need it more. I can take care of myself.")

"He must be able to speak english", she insisted when we asked about her son's after school activities. "What can he do without english? The world is different now."
We all nodded like school kids in front of a teacher.

And the guitar lessons?
"He likes playing guitar. Maybe he has the talent. I don't know," said Ibu Murni, "And I will never know unless he takes the lessons".
"Besides, " she said, "Art will do him good. Life is not just about science and technology, you know".

Wow. And this is coming from a woman who did not even finish her elementary school.

"I will make sure my child receives the best education even if it kills me."

Too bad we -- as a country -- cannot say the same. We cannot even commit 20% of our budget to education [1].
What percentage of Ibu Murni's income went to her son's education? We guessed more than 70%.
"I'd rather not eat than being late paying my son's tuition". She said on one occasion.

We, as a country, cannot say the same.
We, as a country, don't know better.

We, as a country, have a lot to learn from Ibu Murni.

Now, the footnote:
why did we write about Ibu Murni in past tense?
That is because all the hard work and the crazy hours she had put in took its toll. Her frail body could only take so much, and after a while couldn't withstand anymore punishments. Her liver was the first to give up. She passed away not long after her son finished high school.

Her son now studies at one of the country's best university. He finances his study by working as a freelance translator in a small translation firm, and giving private english lesson to school children -- and still refused our scholarships offer.
He certainly inherited his mother's determination.

"I will make sure my child receives the best education even if it kills me."

Maybe we should put that in our constitution instead of the one we have below, that we don't even follow:

Chapter XIII

Article 31

(1) Every citizen has the right to receive education.
(2) Every citizen has the obligation to undertake basic education, and the government has the obligation to fund this.
(3) The government shall manage and organise one system of national education, which shall increase the level of spiritual belief, devoutness and moral character in the context of developing the life of the nation and shall be regulated by law.
(4) The state shall prioritise the budget for education to a minimum of 20% of the State Budget and of the Regional Budgets to fulfil the needs of implementation of national education. [2]

[1] Anggaran Pendidikan -- Pemerintah Tak Dapat Langsung Penuhi Keputusan MK
[2] The 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia - As amended by the First Amendment of 1999, the Second Amendment of 2000, the Third Amendment of 2001 and the Fourth Amendment of 2002 - Unofficial translation