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Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Indonesia can be a truly beautiful land. You're probably imagining walking alone on pristine beaches or dipping your toes into a blue ocean, you might envision angry volcanoes or maybe a plethora of wildlife and rainforest canopies. These are all true depictions of this amazing country yet there are contradictions too, often separating the rural from the urban.

dredging rivers for the first time since the 1970's
These differences show themselves in a variety of ways The first of which is how, if you live in or visit the capital, that the Jakarta government can spend buckets of money cleaning up the waterways of the capital in an effort to reduce the annual flooding, yet at the same time not address the problem of trash and litter which is one of the primary causes of the blockages in the first place. There are absolutely no meaningful attempts to encourage recycling or repackaging and you will very quickly tire of seeing unbelievable ignorance in the form of plastic containers being casually tossed from car windows. This ignorance is not the consequence of a lack of either education or means as the behaviour comes from both public minibus  angkots and Mercedes alike.
There is a heartbreak attached to looking out over a sea of beautiful rice paddies, being tended by men and women in coolie hats which encourages you to consider simpler, earlier times but this image is then shattered by glancing slightly left and seeing a festering pile of plastic filled refuse. This is something many visitors to the 5-star hotels of Bali rarely see but something those who choose to travel into the heartlands will be only too acutely aware of.
a common sight in Jakarta

With the fourth largest population in the world, it often appears to visitors that the majority of Indonesia's residents believe that having a large family takes precedence over managing the resources needed to accommodate the rapidly increasing number of people living here. This lack of foresight then rears its head in the expanding borders of cities, need for housing and related facilities and the consequent reduction in green areas. According to statistics published by The World Bank, Indonesia's child mortality rate (under 5's) has dropped from 226 deaths per thousand live births in 1960 to just 27 in 2015 so the excuse of having big families to replace siblings who would statistically die really doesn't apply anymore. Increasingly,
I'd like to say this is's not
the inability to care for, educate, and provide working opportunities to the populace provides the observer with too many examples of poverty such as beggars and sex trade workers, eager to make whatever living they can. Organised religions need to take their share or responsibility for this irresponsibility as much as the government.

This growing population also needs to be mobile as living in satellite cities and commuting to work requires transportation. Rather than focus on improving public transport, until recently the contradiction, unbelievably, was to even go so far as to make cheap, small engine cars available as an alternative to motorbikes, and this is on roads already congested and often gridlocked due to a lack of investment, lack of control over the quality and administration of the vehicles and owners, and the policing of these things. That many of Indonesia's roads are toll roads, one wonders how the money taken at the toll gates is used.
new toll gate in Karawaci made traffic worse

A nation suffering issues relating to health, Indonesia continues to make cheap, unhealthy food available to the masses and providing poor medical services to take care of a population is increasingly showing a gap between the haves and have nots.

Yet these contradictions, which are perfectly visible to, and well known by Indonesians, are passed off as "well, it's Indonesia" as if this caveat is a perfectly acceptable excuse. The problems are obviously heightened around the major cities whose reputations attract more and more people to flock towards the bright lights and potential rewards, but as with the story of Dick Whittington, the streets are more likely to be cess-pits than they are to be paved with gold. Every year the government go so far as to send a begging message to people on their way back from the annual Ramadan/Idul Fitri holiday not to come unless you have a job and lodgings.

Of course there are glimmers of hope. For the first time since the 1970's and as can be seen in the earlier photograph, the government is actually dredging the Jakarta waterways of the crap that is blocking them, something previous governments completely overlooked. Also Jakarta is finally going to have an LRT (light rail transit) and an MRT (mass rapid transit) train system in the next couple of years. But whether this is too little, too late will be the review of successive generations and with recent talk of moving the capital city to alternative locations which will surely only take the problems with it, One can only imagine the challenges facing those future generations.

Indonesia has in its hands the means to fundamentally address these issues. Clean up the high-level corruption that clogs the wheels of change and start employing people who can and will address the increasing problems. Clean up the police force and focus its attention on stopping the daily activities that snowball into ridiculous actions by Indonesians too long used to being allowed to get away with whatever they feel like. Get the religious leaders together to show that the abhorrent hardliners, whose pathetic attempts to unify the population over negative issues that will only divide the country further, will not work. At the same time, have those same religious leaders help to promote an understanding of what needs to be done with the social issues that are obvious influencing factors, and explain, using pictures where necessary, why. Dystopian futures are not science fiction, they are rapidly becoming science fact, we need actions to complement words.

Finally, and to finish this piece on contradictions on a lighter note, why is it that some Indonesians, who are averse to raising voices at the best of times, when in a quiet room insist on communicating with their friends/colleagues by shouting? Beats me...


  1. Your order sir, a fresh, spicy text with jalapeno and rawit chilli to complement and a full of fact not to mention delicious to read analysis of Indonesia


  2. I love anonymous trolls who try to comment on this blog. Man up and put your nane where your comnents are ��

  3. i would dearly like to thank my pet troll who, bless him, is obviously quite new to trolling. He actually sent another reply saying that his name is "Aditnya" but yes, you guessed it, he sent it anonymously. He actually had some reasonable points to make, in amongst the stereotyping and name calling....oh wait, no he didn't. It was just sarcasm and name calling. Heheheh