A Problem of Trust in Indonesia: Learning from Meeting with a Stranger

Few weeks ago, I had a chance to be interviewed by one of my friends who is currently working on a social project promoting tolerance culture in Indonesia. In short, she asked me to give some comments about tolerance culture and also about the current political situation in Indonesia. Once the interview finished, she then finalized the draft and put it on the website. I was then quite impressed knowing the title of the article. In short, the summary of my thought that is put as the title is about my statement saying that Indonesia is never running out of good people.

Encountering a kind stranger

My statement actually comes out when she asked me about is there any particular situation that makes me really falls in love with Indonesia. I then recalled my experience when my friends and I were planning to hike a mountain in Indonesia. In the middle of our journey, we then met a stranger in a bus. The stranger then asked where we would like to go and he then continued talking while also kindly offering us some salak (snakefruits) to be eaten together. It did not stop there since after that he also offered us to have a rest in his house. We then spent one night in there and ate together with his family. The next day, he and his friends also kindly accompanied us to the nearest village before we started hiking the mountain.

When I reflected back this moment, I just realized how kind such a person. It just started as a real stranger in a bus. Just because he knew that he could help, without any hesitation, he just offered us a hand to help. I could not imagine such a thing to happen because in any metropolitan cities like Jakarta -the city where I was born and have been living- meeting a stranger and offering a help is something that is uncommon. We never know exactly what is going to happen when offering such a help since we do not know what is the background of the people whom we offer help. Something bad that we do not want to happen might just happen because of this. On the other hand, the person whom I met just jeopardized all of my prejudices. And so then I think why Indonesia is just never running out of good people.

Problem of trust

However, there is one real problem here. While an optimistic feeling rises when such a kind thing happens, it is also true that this kind of situation is uncommon or even rare as what I have said before. People living in metropolitan cities rarely trust stranger. This indeed does make sense considering how often criminality does happen and the nature of the social lives in such cities as well. This might probably not the case in rural villages where people still know each other quite well and thus they are also able to develop a strong bonding of trust among themselves. So the question is how can people really increase the trust among themselves? In particular, how Indonesians start to trust their fellows?

Trusting each other is not something that can be developed overnight despite the fact that it will bring numerous benefits towards the society in the long run as has been completely explained by Francis Fukuyama in his treatise ‘Trust’. The problem with developing trust is about how to start to trusting other who are not from our ‘circle.’ For Indonesia in particular, this situation is undoubtedly challenging considering the diversity of the people living in Indonesia. This might also be worsened by our disposition for not trusting our policy makers who should have had a capability to promote trust among Indonesians. In fact, it is often the case that those who are in power are more keen to loosen the social trust by encouraging sectarian thinking.

Developing trust can then only be done by putting those ‘good people’ in the front line. A man whom I encountered during my journey above, for instance, did not have any bad prejudice at all towards my friends and myself. He opened up his arms to kindly know and help us since he knew he could help. Only by doing this could Indonesians -and human beings in general- start to trust each other. Promoting sectarian thinking is definitely useless since it basically only says that the other are not worthy of our attention because they are not ‘us.’

So, to close this writing I would like to return back to where this writing begins: that Indonesia is never running out of good people. Now the homework is then how to bring these ‘good people’ to be leaders so they are able to give higher impact to the society in general. Only by doing so could Indonesia then start to be a better place for everyone, regardless of their background, because we now start to trust each other and make a better social cohesion.


Transactional Politic: Learning from Budi Gunawan’s Case

It is a quite embarrassing moment for, Jokowi, current Indonesia President after Budi Gunawan, a police chief hopeful, was announced as graft suspect by Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). This announcement just came out not long after Jokowi gave his recommendation regarding the police chief nominee. Furthermore, it is also several days prior to the police chief hearing scheduled by House of Representatives. A question may arise here: why did Jokowi suggest Budi Gunawan as the police chief?

In this article, I would not like to study the detail about the capability of Budi Gunawan or his track records in his professional career. When his name was put under the recommendation made by National Police Commission (Kompolnas), I think that the body had not doubted the capability of his career in police. What I would like to elaborate more in this writing is more about morality in politics. Why is it important? The answer lies in the fact of Jokowi’s promise itself who promised for not having transactional politic once he became Indonesia President. Furthermore, it is also worth to note that he also emphasized the importance of building clean government when he was selecting his ministers.

From the first time Jokowi selected his ministers, several people had put doubt on them especially for several names who were considered as part of transactional politics. I would not like to elaborate the names here because many people have already discussed them already. However, what is important here is when doing the task, Jokowi asked KPK help to properly check whether or not the chosen candidates had bad track records regarding corruption. Thus, it was quite clear that Jokowi put his conscience in selecting the candidates and showed his consistency in maintaining clean government.

From the news currently circulating, it is also then clear that Budi Gunawan had also been one of the candidates. However, the name was then rejected due to the bad track record regarding fat bank account. It was quite fortunate that Jokowi followed the KPK suggestion for not naming Budi as one of his ministers. The problem then arises when Jokowi then selected him as the only candidate of the police chief. Why could this thing happen? If the answer offered is “he is also recommended by Kompolnas,” then it is very ridiculous. How can a president give such an answer? It just blame other for his unreasonable decision. In fact, Kompolnas did not only recommend Budi Gunawan as the sole candidate. Thus, it should have been reasonable for Jokowi to have other candidates who have better track records regarding graft cases since he already knew that the name he chose had been already blacklisted before in minister selection. Thus, why should he come to the decision?

People may speculate that it is because Budi Gunawan was the former adjutant for Megawati when she was a president. In this case, it is then clear about the transactional politics lingering Jokowi. Of course I cannot prove the fact that there is a transactional politic occurring behind this particular phenomenon. Even if journalists ask Jokowi directly regarding this matter, he may answer that he chooses him because of his exceptional track record. But one thing to note: transactional politic often happens and one person cannot eradicate it easily through promising. It is a very tough job, if it cannot be said as impossible.

The reason behind it has been extensively covered by Francis Fukuyama, a political philosopher. It is mainly because we have a tendency of kin selection. When human beings start to organize something and on the highest degree to organize a country, they tend to select people who are close to him. The reason is quite simple: because they know them and perhaps, to some extent, as part of a reciprocal altruism. It occurs everywhere even though we never consciously notice it. For example, when a manager would like to hire a new employee, he/she will prefer the one who is graduated from the same university. This is probably because he/she already knows about the quality about his/her university or as a part of alumni solidarity. Even though there are also some other candidates who have better profile and experience, the manager would get stick to his/her alumni. Hence it is very normal to choose people who are close to you or those who share similar things because you know you can trust them or because you have to pay something back to them. Similar thing also then occurs in politics and it is more complex because in order for a candidate to be a president, he must be supported and backed by people coming with different interests. As a consequence, there is a tendency for a president to select people who are close to him. The question is then: is it wrong?

In ideal circumstance, it is indeed wrong. In order to build a good country, transactional politic should not happen because ministerial post should be filled with competence people. However, as we live in non-ideal circumstance, this condition can be considered as “quite normal.” What should be emphasized then is we should not promise that transactional politic would not happen. Rather we should promise that we will fill the ministerial posts by competent people. Choosing candidate from our close friends is not a wrong decision provided that they have sufficient competency to perform the task. Moreover, when we talk about building a nation, they should also have clean track records regarding corruption. This is the thing that should be emphasized and made clear.

Thus, transactional politic is indeed a phenomenon that cannot be eradicated easily. If Jokowi wants to improve the quality of the government, what is needed is to fill any posts with good and clean candidates. I am not quite sure if there is no transactional politic occurring in Jokowi’s cabinet starting from Cabinet selection process. But I was quite glad to know that KPK was still involved during the selection process. And currently, I am very disappointed by the fact that either KPK or PPATK was not involved in selecting police chief candidate. Please Jokowi, we know certainly transactional politic can occur but please, keep your promise to have clean and professional government. There is nothing wrong by selecting your friends as long as they are clean and competence. It turns wrong only when you are heavily chained by the transactional politic and you get blind easily for the fact behind your candidates just because you want to satisfy everyone who has been backing you until now. Please remember, you work for Indonesian People.

The Last Man and The Slave in Indonesia’s Energy Sector

After reading of one of my friends’ blog, I was then carried to think deeply about the current circumstance in Indonesia, especially in regard with energy issue. This posting can then be considered as a response to my friend’s writing, but it should be underlined that I have produced it with my whole originality.

Discussing energy issue in Indonesia does seem endless. The country has many crucial issues in regard of energy. First of all, it can be clearly seen when BP Migas was eventually dismissed by Constitutional Court. Such regulatory body was considered to be a body that did not give enough support for Pertamina, Indonesia’s Oil and Gas Company, thus giving away Indonesia’s oil resource to foreign companies. Secondly, the issue that has something to do with social lives, namely subsidized fuel. As has been widely known, almost a quarter of Indonesia’s budget is used as a fund to subsidize variety of needs. And fuel takes the dominant part of the subsidy. Thirdly, with our dependence unto foreign companies in lifting oil, it does seem that Indonesia can have no independency in supplying its energy demand.

As has been stated on my friend’s blog, even though the country has many energy sources to be converted to renewable sources of energy, such conversion are seldom accomplished. A question is: we know that there is much potential there, but, why does Indonesia still get trapped in fossil fuel? Is it caused by the lack of human resource? I do not think that such answer is plausible. I would rather say that Indonesians have become last men in regard of energy sector.

The last man and our current issue

Having reading Francis Fukuyama’s treatise The End of History and The Last Man, it is clear then the last man is a person who does no longer face any difficulties in his/her own life. This circumstance is absolutely different compared with the first man described by Hegel.

Such first man, according to Hegel, was a person who always tried to be recognized as a human being. Thus, he/she can engage in a bloody battle just to be recognized. At the very last, those who became the victor would be the master and the rest will be the slave. The slave would beg to the master in order to live peacefully. The master could then use the slaves to achieve his/her own goal. In such circumstance, the master was considered more worthy because he/she can surpass his/her own natural desire and to get engaged in a war in order to preserve their dignity. On the other hand, the slaves, who surrendered, were considered less worthy.

But as time went on, the slaves would soon realize that they also longed for their dignity. Throughout work on nature that was imposed by their masters, they knew perfectly that they could master the nature and should have not been considered as slave. On the other side, the masters also longed for more recognition because they did not consider the recognition raised by the slaves since the slaves had been downgraded, no longer human beings. This condition then would bring people unto an equal condition, no more slaves and masters. Each person is equal. Unfortunately, this condition also brings people toward a condition where last man does appear; because there is no longer struggle for recognition, persons will be automatically downgraded. Their lives will be only used as a mean to fulfill their natural desires, like a slave but with no masters. And there is no reason to have an outstanding personality to be proud of.

This condition is actually happening in Indonesia. The fact shows that fresh graduates tend to apply for a job that offers them a competitive salary, no matter what flags do the companies bear. It is also a fact that almost of all current students enjoy the subsidized fuel, even though they can be classified as upper class. Both of these examples clearly show that Indonesians have been trapped to become the last man: human beings who need not to struggle to achieve something and can no longer see something different except something that will bring them to richer and then fulfilling their natural needs. Thus, who to blame: ourselves as Indonesians or Indonesia Government?

Proud, challenge, and value

It is clear then there is something that should be achieved in order to avoid to get trapped in becoming the last man. Moreover, the something offered should produce proud feeling for those who have achieved it.

In regard of the first case, it can be said that working in a multinational company can bring prosperity and more proud-feeling rather than working in a national company. Working in such company is then considered as prestigious. Well, this argument is not wrong but it should be scrutinized further.

From the above explanation, it is clear that the slaves would realize that they actually could become a master throughout work because they realized that they could master their nature. This emphasis actually lacks when people are working in a multinational company. Their prestige will stop as long as they can live peacefully and thus never realizes that they actually can master their nature. They never learn from multinational companies how they can achieve such outstanding technologies. What Indonesians often do are merely just operators: high salary and no need to learn to master the technology. Is it freedom? Yes, free to get released from needs difficulties and shortages, but not as human beings. It is quite clear why Indonesians like to become slaves in their own country.

Regarding of the second case about subsidized fuel, I thought that it is absolutely the fault of Indonesia Government. The question to be asked is: until when the fuel should be subsidized? It is a good idea if the subsidized fuel can be controlled so it will not harm the essence of subsidy that is actually directed for poor people. But, the reality shows the opposite. Such action will only bring Indonesians to not be a creative and hard-working person. It does seem like parents who always supply the daily needs of their children until they grow up and get old. But, the children will never get mature.

Releasing subsidized fuels will then bring two advantages. First of all, it will incentivize people to conduct more researches in order to produce renewable energy commercially. Secondly, it will make people learn that they should work very hard to achieve something that will bring convenience for them. But it seems that Indonesia Government never considers such advantages. By giving more subsidy, and not controlled, will only aggravate the condition to become the last man in energy sector.

Thus, what can be done? As I have stated above, I do believe that this country does not lack of human resource. What we do really lack is the human beings who want to strive, struggle, take pride for not having subsidized fuel and have greater value in their own lives. It means that Indonesia is lack of people who are brave enough to be recognized as true human beings who are recognized by their struggle to have values rather than just fulfilling their natural needs. Indonesians have been successfully trapped by every easy access offered to them and they are never incentivized to achiever more.

It is then the homework for all Indonesians: both of Indonesia government and society, especially the young generations who will become leaders for the years to come. Indonesia needs the brave and creativity from its own citizens. Without such value, independence will never get its essence.

Thus, talking about renewable energy is important, but to change our mindset is more important since it is the latter that will drive the former. Without having pride to involve in such projects and always get trapped in fulfilling natural needs with every ease offered by multinational companies or government, it will be a utopian dream to have renewable energy and let this country imports renewable energy in the future. I do not hope it to be happen and I do believe, we all Indonesians also yearn for the independence in our energy sector. And we can start it together: to quit as a last men.