Written for Sounds from the Corner
Disclaimer: This is not me being a douche, this is me being realistic (and a bit skeptical). I am also part of the subject, object and predicate in this note, so no finger pointing. This is a grievance equipped with a solution.
Being an Indonesian in Jakarta is such a weird feeling.
The reality that people encounter and breathe everyday in Jakarta – and presumably other big cities in Nusantara – doesn’t really resemble the idea of Indonesia as a country, as an entity and most important: as an identity. Jakarta inhabitants, they (we) are cornered by too many crossroads. The first world culture penetration is too painful to be cured collectively. We don’t even think that it is a disease, to adapt and digest too fast. The half-baked nationality is a proof that ignorance is poisonous. But, what do you mean by half-baked, Teguh?
Put a Batik pattern in your clothing and suddenly you represent the country. Put a Gamelan tunes in your music and suddenly you becoming national hero. The half baked nationality, triggers people to join the race of showcasing Indonesia to the world, but these people – who have the capital and awareness – they do not live the reality of being Indonesian. Who are you guys (we) represent, actually?
We want the world to know Indonesia so hard but we barely know ourselves.
Wise men said, ignorance is bliss. In a country like Indonesia, awareness is a curse. I am a lucky person, but cursed in the same time. Because unfortunately, I care. People who care, suffer the most.
I am lucky (and cursed), during my years working as a travel journalist, I drowned myself into testifying the hard way of being Indonesian. I stayed in the forests for weeks, I free-dived into living with people with archaic culture in places around the archipelago. At that time, coming back to Jakarta made me feel like an idiot trapped between skyscrapers and concrete jungle. At that time, my reality was switched into the reality of these people.
These “people”, they don’t queue for midnight sale. They wake up at 4AM to prepare the boat. These people don’t gossip on Path or spend 30mins looking for the right Instagram angles, they are running around the village to find decent phone connection to call their relatives. These people don’t complain over gridlocks, they are trying to send a letter to the local government to protest about the broken bridge that connects the village and the school.
So, who are you (we) represent?
I am also lucky (and cursed), I had the chance to live and work abroad. For awhile I saw how modern society flows, and it made me sad, how primitive we are in lots of aspects. I had enough conversations with Indonesian people comparing Indonesia’s infrastructure with the first world, and the more I do it, the more useless I feel. I am lucky that I have broad reference, my curiosity resulted in well-informed manner and sometimes a snob POV. I am sorry, it’s just the way I am.
I am lucky (and cursed) I’ve lived different realities as an Indonesian man. I went both up and down. Right now, I am emotionally growing, and my feeling toward being Indonesian is complicated as fuck.
Sometimes, I wish I’m just a fisherman in Sumba, extremely happy only with 300K rupiah per month and plenty catch to provide my family. I am sure that could be my definition of happiness. Sometimes, I wish I still work at BBC London, watching gigs in weekends, and stroll along Southbank just to kill time. I am also sure, that could be my definition of happiness. Happiness is not about places. Right now, I live with the absence of happiness, staying in a kosan, browsing my Twitter feed every 10 mins while thinking to subscribe to 6-month installment for an iPhone 6. Like a normal middle class boring smart-ass Indonesian. I wish I am not myself.