Saturday, August 20, 2011
Politically Charged Saturday
Hello peeps. Today is the last day of my french class for this term. We're having a break next week *yay* Today in class we had quite a political discussion. Life / class with Mr. C is laden with heavy topics but I think this is the first time that I feel compelled and really really interested to talk about the discussion, simply because it got me thinking about a lot of things. I have to say it's been several hours since class ended and as usual thoughts come in and out of my brain randomly that I have formed opinions and came to certain realization which didn't occur to me in class.
It all started during the break when the Chinese boy (from PRC) next to me finally found out where I'm from and he made a remark something along the line of, oh I like Indonesian chinese but not the rest of Indonesian. Mr. C was walking in when he was making that comment and he heard that and Mr. C made a comment along the line, hey I don't want to hear that kinda comment in my class, it's awful. I have to say that Mr. C could come across as very stern in making comments such as this and it kinda could make you feel a bit shocked, like being reprimanded by your teacher when you were young. Yes, he IS our teacher but I guess in the age that we are now, to be receiving comments in such tone do make us a bit uneasy. I told him, it's fine, it's okay, no? In which he said, how is it okay to say that? By the way, I have to tell you that this conversation happened in english. His argument is, as french, the way things are done in his country is to eliminate comments such as I like certain race / culture / religion, they are better, the others are not. To be honest I didn't get what the fuss is all about at that time. Now that I think about it, it's perhaps because I'm Indonesian chinese so I didn't feel offended. I pointed to the Singaporean classmates that I had a discussion with a friend in which we felt Singaporean Malays are nicer than Singaporean Chinese. Okay I have to admit that this discussion was with an Indonesian friend. However I did say truthfully what we thought when days later it so happened that a Singaporean Chinese guy I know asked me how I find Singaporean. In answering his question, I did tell him it's such a thorny question but I told him the sentiment that me and my friend shared. For the record, I think that Singaporean Malays are generally nicer on first meeting simply because we are Indonesians who share certain similarity in language which cause them to tend to be friendlier to us than the Singaporean Chinese, but this is a generalization. There are really really nice Singaporean Chinese aunties and uncles out there. Anyway, in class my point is if a Singaporean Chinese found out that they are at the bottom of the scale on which race is the nicest in Singapore, shouldn't they ask why. What make you think this way and try to use this to reflect on how they project themselves to foreigners. That was my point in class.
After many hours later, I do realize that such comment can be hurtful. If the guy has said, I hate Indonesian Chinese because so and so. I don't know if I can be all calm about it. Come to think of it, if I had been a better Indonesian, I should have argued to try to clear his point of view. I should have argued on the basis that I should see myself as an Indonesian, not Indonesian Chinese. Anyway, Mr. C said such comments is banned in France and there is a law about it. Remember John Galliano's case
? This got me thinking what if such comments have been made in Indonesia? I'm pretty sure we don't have such law. I'm pretty sure if a non Indonesian Chinese makes a hateful comment to an Indonesian Chinese, the Indonesian Chinese will not fight back and will just walk away from the situation without making much comments. Perhaps there are those who will stand up and fight such comments but Indonesian Chinese are generally trained by their parents to give in in a conflict with non Indonesian Chinese, simply because we're out numbered and we are not going to win this conflict even though we are on the right side. However if such hate comments is made between the Indonesian Batak or Javanese for example, I am sure it could lead to the machete being drawn or rocks being thrown. Each will stand their ground. This leads to a question, the Indonesian Chinese don't have a ground in Indonesia? Yes there have been a lot of talk about respect and acknowledging Indonesian Chinese as just being Indonesian like the rest and being part of Indonesia, especially during Chinese New Year. However I think for many Indonesian it's just a political talk. If a riot like 1998 targeting Indonesian Chinese should happen again, will the rest of the Indonesian stand to protect the Indonesian Chinese? I know for sure that my parents, aunts, uncles have scepticism about this. It is perhaps our fault that we choose to be a victim. I agree and disagree to that partly. I remember hating so much when my mother didn't do anything when a boy at the end of the street was throwing rocks at me when I walked by simply because I was chinese when I was really really young. The hatred and injustice feeling were really strong but I understand now that even if we had lodged a complain, we would not have won that argument. So is there still discrimination for Indonesian Chinese in Indonesia? Since I don't live there, I don't know. I have a feeling there's still might be a bit. Indonesian Chinese get bullied more perhaps in their business. I'm not sure though. Either we have become acceptant with how things are and have adapted to just rise above it or there's isn't any major discrimination currently happening on us, that right now I don't think there's a major change that Indonesian Chinese demand to see in Indonesia.
Mr.C said one should stop talking about these differences and see each other to be just the same. However I think in Indonesia, we are just simply proud of our cultural identity, not necessarily for our religions but more for our ethnic groups and for this, I don't see why we shouldn't accentuate this about us. Yes, emphasizing on the differences can lead to problems because you may get carried away thinking you are better than the others. However I like to think that we're unique because we are different and we shouldn't hide that we are a certain way because of our cultural identity. Of course I'm coming from the point of view that people should be respectful of these differences and find it as something interesting rather than something that separate us. He said he was surprised that when he arrived here, he had to fill in the race column in a form. Only then did he realize he's caucasian. He didn't see the importance for this. Even more surprising for him was a religion part in a form. I commented, c'est normal, non? He was flabbergasted and argued, how is this normal? What is normal? Again in France, these type of information is irrelevant to who you are and as such, such questions should not be asked, and I think it's in the law that you shouldn't demand for this information. While I agree that I don't like the race column because based on the Indonesian experience, it's racial profiling which specifically target the Chinese, it's something that I have come to term with. Why do I say it specifically target the Indonesian Chinese? Because with the so many ethnic groups in Indonesia, the options will take a whole entire page. While the Chinese boy today said there are 50 something ethnic groups in China, there is apparently around 300 ethnic groups
in Indonesia. So anyway, I think that column in an Indonesian method to see if you are Indonesian Indonesian or Indonesian Chinese. Now as for the religion, since the first foundation of Indonesia, the belief in God, this is something that is ingrained in us. We believe in God full stop. This lead to the second part of the discussion.
This part is in French so I may get understood wrongly since I couldn't really say what I wanted to say clearly and I may also not get the question correctly. A Russian girl asked a question (which I think) how about atheist in Indonesia? I told her, do not say you're an atheist in Indonesia. Okay, perhaps this is my perception and perhaps I do not know Indonesia well since I only spend less than 1 month a year there however I really do think that Indonesian do not accept this belief (can you use the word "belief" for an atheist?) or this notion of there is no God. Again, this is a generalization because I did some googling before writing this and it seemed the number of atheist in Indonesia is increasing but even them said that it's not easy to come out in the open and say I don't believe in God and as much as they want to push for this freedom, they also understand that at this point, it just doesn't seem possible. The first time I heard anyone declaring they're a free thinker and don't believe in God was in Singapore and it shocked me greatly. Over time I came to accept it's something common in Singapore but it didn't stop me from feeling a certain sad emotion hearing that, for example when this Russian girl declaring proudly that she's an atheist. I guess perhaps in Indonesia, out of courtesy, just don't declare you're an atheist to an Indonesian because perhaps it will make the Indonesians uncomfortable and awkward. I like to think Indonesians are nice enough to be non-judgemental and start lecturing you however I cannot guarantee this. The Indonesian law guarantee the freedom of practice and expression based on religions or beliefs. This law combined with our country's foundation does not factor in atheism and I told them we are not evolved enough to accept there are atheist out there.
The Chinese boy whispered to me, so what if you don't have a religion. I said you choose one which is closer to you. Many Indonesian Chinese choose to state that they are Buddhist. I pointed that in my case this is what's written in my identity card even though I'm not a "true" buddhist. Mr.C asked, because you don't practice it? No, not because of that, but because I'm not a buddhist the way my brother, cousins, and Richard Gere are. There were only 5 options during my time, so that's the closest we had. The thing is you grow up in a family that since your grandparents time has had religion, so even if you don't practice and follow it, you just choose that option in your identity card. The Russian felt this is wrong, there's no freedom when you cannot acknowledge the atheists. It's discrimination, it's violation of human rights. While perhaps she is right to a certain extend, I wouldn't stand on her side. If there's a certain group who tries to push for atheism to be acknowledged in Indonesia, I will be against that. Does that make me an extremist? Having a religion is not something which is important to me. God knows, I'm mixing my religious upbringing and my religious education in my life. However I think the belief in God is important. I do agree alhough the first thing in our country's foundation is the belief in God and while all Indonesian can say what their religion is as stated in their identity card, we are not the holiest country in the world and our government is for sure far from being clean. However for me, giving the option that you don't believe in God, when God is often time our moral compass and the guide in our life, will be more dangerous. Where is that moral compass then? Christians often use WWJD in their life and I admit I mock this many times, but I find that this is useful, that this is important. I agree with the separation of state and religion. Just like many Indonesians out there, we don't want to see Indonesian being ruled by one certain religion (even though perhaps it already is). However I want a country in which the people believe in God. I agree that the government cannot push you to have a religion or to believe in God but I do not want a government that allows you openly be an atheist. I know it's contradictory, I know it's a matter of freedom, choices, and human rights however that is just the way I feel and so I like the fact that we are "forced" to have a religion. I feel at the very least, even though right now you don't believe in God, there perhaps will come a day which will make you wonder if He exists and if you want to learn more, you can go to that religion stated in your identity card. Also if atheism is not flourishing, perhaps the influence of the so many religions in Indonesia can influence you to consider your view in God.
It's been a long post, I don't know if I am making logical correlations. As usual I don't know if I am making any sense. I know I am perhaps short-sighted in my view. Maybe I'll change my opinion as I grow up. I don't know if I have written all my thoughts. There were many things said in class which will make this post super long if I write them all. I don't know if I've made rational justification, perhaps not. It's hard to be writing your thoughts without much time to filter them and mull about them. By the way, some articles that you can read (if you're interested) about atheism in Indonesia, I promise you it's in english, you can go here
, and here
On other life news. Well nothing interesting. I had a long day yesterday. I was very tired and for some reason there are many ants in my room :( and then I was awoken at 5 am something when Jenny was screaming at the twin (okay, they're not twin). I think it was Maxime that got into trouble now and Chloe tried to argue on his behalf. I don't really know what the problem was, I did hear one line clearly. She was so loud, I was wondering when the neighbours gonna come and complain. I really wondered what the hell happened that such altercation happened at 5 am. I wanted to call mom just because I knew they would have been awoken at 4 am Jakarta time, but I decided not to. Went to class today feeling über sleepy. Met LM for dimsum lunch after it. I'm glad I got to meet her before she pops her baby which from the look of it, it seems it's gonna be soon but she said due date is in the middle of September. I don't want to talk about other part of my life so ciao for now. Hope you have a good week ahead!
:) eKa @ 9:05:00 PM •