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.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Being (a) Patient

Do you trust your doctor? When your doctor gives you perscription, have you ever wondered if the medication is really for your benefit and for your benefit only?

D, one of our secretaries, started to wonder. A few days back she went to see a doctor. Had always been a very fit young lady, D doesn't really have a doctor that she can call her own, so she went to a clinic recommended by some of our colleagues. It's one of those where you can find a group of doctors both GP and specialists (in various fields) under one roof. You can either go there to see one particular doctor (if you already have one in mind), or if you have no preference, you can see whoever doctor is available at the time. It's quite a popular clinic. Almost everybody at our office know of it, so it should not be so bad.

Been busy at work (because of us. Sorry D!) she arrived at the clinic near closing time, so the clinic was not so busy, although some doctors still seemed to have longer queues than others.
Not knowing which doctor to choose, D picked one with the least queue. There was only one man waiting by the doctor's door.
D took a seat in a distance from the guy.

"Just one patient to go before my turn. That's not too bad.." thought D.

But this guy apparently was not a patient. He, noticing the presence of a young lady in the vicinity, started a small talk.

"Do you mind if I go in before you?" asked the man.
What a question. Men can be really silly when they wanted to start a conversation, thought D. But D replied anyway:
"Well, you are here before I am. It's only fair..."

"Ah yes. But I am not a patient. Some doctors would like to finish with their patients before they let sales-rep in..."

So he was. He was a sales representative of a pharmaceutical company, and was there plugging a new brand of drug.

D was a bit curious how a drug sales rep works, so she asked more about his job and the products he was carrying. Didn't want to miss the sole chance of sitting closer to D, our sales-rep pulled out some brochures, and started explaining stuff. D couldn't get most of it, but she was impressed with how well-prepared he was. He had everything. Research papers supporting the drug, all kind of brochures, including the tiny little brochures in a size of namecard, and lots and lots of freebies: notepad, sticky-pad, coasters, keychains. He even gave D a free pen. It's amazing considering what he was carrying with him was a slim suitcase and nothing else. He was like a magician pulling tricks out of a hat.

The doctor's door opened. One patient went out and our sales-rep rushed in. (With a few moment to spare to give D his namecard. Yes, with his cellphone number on it. Hey, can't blame a man for trying, right?).

To cut the story short, About ten minutes later, the door opened. Our sales-rep left and D went in.

D explained to the doctor about her problem, and the doctor listened, asked questions and then said he would give her a prescription to take care of the problem. It's not serious, nothing to worry about. Just take the medicine regularly and D will be fine.

So the doctor took a pen and started writing the prescription. And then - to D's amazement - pulled out a card from his pocket and started copying the name of the medicine from the card, to the prescription.

It was the same card-brochure our sales-rep showed D just 15 minutes ago !

D froze for a while. She could not believe her eyes. Now this was either a really-utterly-wildy-unbelievably-one-in-a-million-chance type of coincidence that the sales-rep's medicine matched to the health problem she is currently having, or... :
The doctor wrote that simply because he was persuaded by the sales-rep and it had nothing to do with her problem at all.

Naturally, D thought it was the latter. And that upset her. But she kept quiet and civil about it. Despite the urge to punch the doctor in the face, D kept her patience, listened to the doctor, took the prescription and left.

The prescription ended up in the trash bin at her home.
"There is no way on earth I will take the medicine," said D. "I just don't trust that doctor."

Now, before you get all freaked-out about this, or you doctors get all upset, please allow us to remind you that we have no intention of doing any smear campaign against doctors. This may well be (or at least we hope to be ) an isolated incident. So please, don't generalize. There are many good, honest, dedicated doctors out there.

But it is only normal if we believe that there is something going on here: something between pharmaceutical companies, doctors, and how the relationships influences drug-prescriptions.
And mind you, this is not something that only happens in Indonesia.

Read what we found out when we dig for more info relating to this issue: The international herald tribune wrote about what is going on in the US [1].

"Merck was happy to pay $258 to provide Chinese food to the 20 or more doctors and employees of a pulmonary practice so that its sales representatives could tout the virtues of an osteoporosis drug and an asthma treatment in a relaxed setting."
"Across the United States, such lunches are believed to cost the pharmaceutical industry hundreds of millions of dollars a year".
"The doctors always insist that they can't be bought. But a former sales representative for two drug companies said the lunches were "incredibly effective" in lifting the number of prescriptions from practices that received the free food..."

Poor D. Now she does not know where to go.

[1] Please hold the free lunches - The International Herald Tribune - August 11, 2006, Page 6

Monday, August 07, 2006

Beg to Differ

"When you're on the street, at a sidewalk, or in a car stopping at an intersection or whatever, and then a beggar comes to you asking for money,
will you give?"

One colleague asked this question when we were having our coffee, while waiting for our meeting to start.
It then turned into an interesting conversation:

A :
"I won't. Never. It will just encourage them. They are lazy. It's the laziest profession ever. This people just want it easy. Work? No, I'll just beg. Easier.
Lazy bums..."

"Well, that if you think standing in the sun (and rain), going from car to car under the heat, day in day out, is easy...
I bet you won't even last half an hour standing there..."

"That's why you don't see me begging. Haaa ! " [laughing].
"But seriously though. Giving money to them will just encourage more of them to beg instead of work.."

"Yes, but some of them are old people, or young children. They are not supposed to work. We can't tell them "No, no money for you. Go away and get a job.."
I don't give to healthy young men. That sort of beggars should get a job. But I tend to give some to old people and young children..."

"I always give. It's only a small change. No big deal. It help me from feeling bad. Here I am sitting comfortably in an air-conditioned car, while they are out there, probably tired, hungry and thirsty... I always feel bad. Especially when I see young children begging.
I know it won't help much. But hopefully, by giving some, they will get enough for the day and can go home a bit early.
I always feel bad and regret it if I don't give any..."

"Well you should feel bad. You drive a BMW."

"Oh, shut up. You are not exactly taking a bus to work either. What are you going to say to the beggars: "Look, I only drive a honda jazz, I am just as poor as you are. I feel your suffering... I feel your pain.. " ?

[bitter laughter]

"All right.. all right. Stop it.

But some say the beggars are organized by mafias. And if you give money to them you essentially give money to the mafias...
And some other say, some beggars actually live a good life. They actually make good money out of this and in their homes they have TVs, stereos,..."

B: "That if you believe the story. You think it's true?"

A: "What, you think it's not?"

D who so far was only listening, decided to join in the conversation.

"Did you read the Tribune a few days back?[1]"
[Tribune as in the International Herald Tribune, the newspaper].

B: "What? It wrote something about Indonesian beggars?"

"No. It's about beggars in India. Some say the beggars in India were maimed, you know, cut some fingers, amputate one leg, or blood-vessel stitched up to make the arm look black with gangrene, just so they can get more money from begging. It's the mafia, some say. Disabled beggars get more money than healthy beggars, so they maimed them on purpose."

C: "That's horrible."

A: "And it's not true?"

"Not according to the newspaper. It's 95% myth. I would dare to assume, it's the same case here. The story of beggars organized by mafias or professional beggars who make good money begging and living a good life.
It's probably a myth."

B: "But why would people make up a story like that?"

"Well, it doesn't mean it did not happen. Surely we have mafias somewhere controlling the streets. Surely we have pro beggars who actually live a good life.
We just should not assume that is the majority, that's all. The majority I believe is out there not out of choice.

Such story has become a convenient excuse for us -- or for the government -- , so we don't have to tackle the real issue. It's easier to blame the mafias for placing the beggars at every intersections, or to label them professional beggars, than to tackle the real problem: Poverty."

"It's a two different world isn't it.
Here we are, having our coffee and our muffins, and we are not even hungry. We have had our breakfast, and look at us now: stuffing our face with muffins..
While out there people may not be able to afford even a meal a day."

D: Yes, here we are. Just talking. We're full of sh*t, really.

"Yes, and that is frustrating. It's not like we don't want to help, you know."

E who was preoccupied by her business-magazine suddenly said something in a very low voice while her eyes never left the magazine:

"If you think about it, the income tax you pay every month to the government, is enough to help one family of four to live an ok life... Two families, even.

Or maybe three..."

[looking at C with a wicked smile...]

Everybody is uncomfortably quiet. E is from HR. She knows how much everybody makes and how much taxes everybody pays.
You don't like it when HR think you make too much. You want HR to think you make too little, hence a raise is required...

E: "Maybe you all should ask the government. What's up with all those money?"

A scratched his head. B cleared his throat. C acted as if she didn't hear E. D sipped his coffee. Everybody is uncomfortable.

The door opened. Our counterparts who we all had been waiting, suddenly turned up.
"Sorry we're late..."

A :
"Oh, no no. You arrived at the perfect time... Perfect time indeed...
Shall we start the meeting right away?"

And there you go. The world full of coffee and muffins has started to revolve around project initiatives, targets, and profitability.
In the end that is what we do and we are sticking to it.

While the other world,
the world that makes a good topic while waiting for a meeting to start,
the world we talk about while sipping our coffee and chewing our muffins and cinnamon buns,
the world we see everyday on the way to work and back,
the world that we know is part of ours,

will still slowly revolve, if not stand still, in poverty.

(And yes, what's up with all the tax money we paid all this time, by the way?)

[1] International Herald Tribune, August 4, 2006,Page 2 : A myth about maiming: A scapegoat for poverty - Amelia Gentleman