Monday, May 26, 2008

Camden, an Honest Revelation of Bigotry, Racism and Fear of Change

I was quite shocked when I watched the interviews on the news during one of the town’s meetings against the proposed Islamic school in the area. There were no politically correct words nor sentences worded carefully to avoid undesirable effects. Just blunt words and plain speeches made by ordinary rural people for their fellow citizens. It revealed the depth of the feelings felt by the community towards the Muslim immigrants in Australia.

One interviewee strongly and passionately stated that she didn’t want to have the terrorists in their community. She didn’t even bother to make differentiation between Muslims for in her views they’re all terrorists.

She then continued by stressing that their community wasn’t against immigration as they had Italians, Greeks, and others from Europe, all were welcomed excepts the Muslims.

What really shocked me wasn’t the opposition itself. I understand how difficult it is for a community to accept foreigners among them, let alone letting them build something which would out last everyone of them and might become new legacies in their community. The shocker was the fact that such strong sentiments are felt by Australians. Our close neighbour.

Regardless of the rather volatile relationship between Indonesia and Australia and the ups and downs in our foreign relations, I've always have a feeling that Australians are one of those who really know and understand Indonesians. That means understand the Muslims and Islam. I somehow thought Australia as one of the most tolerance countries when it comes to the practice of different religions. Seeing that news was a revelation. It shows the world a reality. Ugly, unpleasant, and shocking, but reality nonetheless.

People are inherently suspicious of others different from them, particularly if those different people are the ones constantly pictured as terrorists by the media. They also have a healthy dose of fear of change, enough patriotism, nationalism, and faith in their bones to defend their country, community, culture and religion against the invaders and interlopers. Conveniently forgetting their very existence in their beloved land was the results of what they are opposing at the moment. Change brought by the unwelcome foreigners.

It shows that we are still a long way from achieving an ideal world where one’s colours, nations, and beliefs will no longer be an issue. When people could see other people without prejudice. When they could see others who come into their community not as a threat but as a welcome resources. As a fellow citizen of this planet, who has the same rights as everybody else in it.

Most of the fear of change has economic reasons behinds it. Most of the time it is because the community doesn't want to share its wealth with others. They don't want their comfort to be diminished. Very selfish indeed. But that's the reality in its ugly but honest form.

Until people have an understanding that they need to share what they have with others, tensions will always be there. Until people learn to accept that people are different and will always be, there will always be bigotry, racism, and conflicts.

Apparently, the world still has much to do to educate its citizens.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Fuel Hike

In just a few months I’ve experiencing more than a couple of increases of gas price. For your information I’m using gas with higher level of octane which of course way more pricey than the ones with lower octane level.

The reasons for using a higher octane level gas are because I assume it would be better for my car and because the gas with a cheaper price is heavily subsidized by the government and is designated for those who couldn’t afford it without subsidy.

So, I was feeling quite noble and virtuous for being a model citizen and didn’t really mind those increases.

However, when I stopped in a gas station a couple of days ago, I was pissed of by the new price I saw. It’s Rp 8,750 per liter! Yes, that’s the price I have to pay for being such a model citizen.

Instead of rewarding me for my noble action which now I started to see as a stupid mistake and waste of precious money, the government decided to charge me more! Don’t they know that I am equal to those rare and endangered species needed to be protected? The government needs to preserve people like me. People who did stupid thing when people around them are being smart instead. People who support government stupid initiative at their own costs.

If you’re not using gas with higher level of octane or never pay attention to the going on in a gas station, I’ll tell you what happens when I’m giving my car its expensive drink. I never have to queue. Never! At least not with another car. My only competition is motorbikes.

The common scenes which I saw with mistaken feelings of superiority and righteousness were of luxurious cars using lower level of octane. It didn’t even cross my mind to question why I was the only one using higher octane – a lesson learned: if you’re the only one doing something, it’s probably because you’re doing the wrong thing!

Another thing that I learned is that what the government has achieved with their latest brilliant initiative is opening my eyes that I was being stupid. And it reaffirms my belief that the government is also very stupid.

If the purpose of increasing the price of higher level octane gas is to reducing government burden on subsidy, it fails miserably. This decision has a contrary effect, it pushes me to be like everybody else, to start to be smart and using the cheaper gas, which is heavily subsidized by the government! And don’t they know that no body is buying this expensive gas anyway?!

The government really needs to start to get smarter than that! And brings forth effective initiative like increasing the price of those subsidized gas to close the gap with the price of higher octane gas and therefore forcing those rich people to use what they should be using in the first place while on the other hand maintaining subsidized fuel price for those really needed e.g. public transportation and the have not.

The President said he was thinking of withdrawing Indonesia’s membership of OPEC for a time being as we’ve become an importing country, not that I disagree, but the question is why did we’ve become an oil importing country? What’s wrong? There got to be something wrong. Or am I being stupid again?

With the skyrocketing of fuel price we're supposed to rejoicing the fact and not lamenting it, but of course that's only happen if we are exporting oil. What happens? Have we depleted our resources? Or have the management of our resources to be blamed?

Everybody (translated as foreigners) complement Indonesia for being a rich country with a lot of resources, but if they bother to ask Indonesians, those common people, I'm sure they would be informed that the ordinary people never feel that they are rich, what they feel is that life has become more hard and difficult by day.

Yeah, I'm pissed of alright. So should every other not so stupid Indonesian!