Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Gift And The Curse

I just read this post. I love Mr. Aroengbinang's pictures of everyday Indonesia.

I don't agree with the chief point though:

We just need to open our eyes to look around to see how lucky we are, and find more ways to help those fellow poor citizens of a rich country named Indonesia.

I reckon that many Indonesians live on under $2 a day /because/ of Indonesia's great natural wealth, NOT in spite of it!

Citizens of naturally wealthy countries are almost always worse off than those with few natural resources. Indonesia, Nigeria, DR Congo, Zimbabwe, Russia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia [The Happy Kingdom (c)] have phenomenal natural wealth, yet many of their citizens are relatively poor. [Of course there are outliers, like Norway and North Korea]


Number one, whoever controls the copper mines, oil wells etc. has enough cash to buy heaps more weapons than the opposition.

Number two, it's not in the interests of government to develop the nation's citizens. Why waste money on education, when all you need is miners and soldiers? Education is real a hindrance in both professions.

Indonesia's natural wealth is a curse.

I propose selling as much as possible of Indonesia's natural wealth to Singapore.

Those smug smartasses won't know what they're letting themselves in for. Indonesia's politicians, meanwhile, won't be tempted to ingeniously scam Pertamina etc., giving them more time to worry about Indonesia's human capital.


triesti said...

"I propose selling as much as possible of Indonesia's natural wealth to Singapore. "

thought they are already doing exactly that... and not only to s'pore

mukuge said...

I want to open private schools in uneducated villages... at least the students (yes the oldies aren't too old to start learning!) won't sit and moan; they'll do something instead to improve their living. I also want to educate them about what constitutes good nutrition so they won't have to burn cash to buy white rice (yeah I know it's a prestige thing, but I'll work on it ;p )

I have an idea of what I want to run, so I'm looking for funding and dedicated teachers.

Heee, let's rock! :D

Dewi Susanti said...

i received an email with attachment that compares indonesia with other countries and concludes at the end that what indonesians lack is the attitude to grow.

even if we sell all of our natural resources, i doubt much will change. education may do the trick. but it seems that economic growth may be the other(incentive?) side of the coin.

mukuge: you may want to check east bali poverty project. they have great educational programs that include formal education, health, farming, etc.

spew-it-all said...

attitude to grow? What the hell is that? Do you mean however hard they try, it goes no where? Sometimes these poor people just see their disadvantaged as destiny but don't want to whinge a lot. Life must go on! But i get the sense that outsiders feel annoyed to see this and try hard to help them out, exhibiting their altruism, and exoticing poverty by advertising it in wealthy countries.

er,,I don't know...maybe i am wrong...just getting more depressed to see these sort of things.

johnorford said...

@Mukuge; I'm interested in hearing about about your idea! Actually I've always had a similar idea knocking around my head, get good young/student teachers to work for a year in an international school for poor kids. Pipe dream probably...

@Dewi; "but it seems that economic growth may be the other(incentive?) side of the coin."

I don't quite get you.

Think about it, if as a ruler it's more easier to make money from natural resources than the creativity of your own people; you are stupid to invest in education.

@Citu: i am also skeptical about thinking that indonesians lack attitudes or mentalities of other ppls.

exhibiting or showing off altruism is ok by me! better than nothing...

spew-it-all said...

I frequently get annoyed by economic analysis which considers human being merely numbers. When it comes to this, i would declare the demise of humanity...lack attitude to grow....(give me panadol please)

Dewi Susanti said...

Citu: what was referred as the lack of attitude to grow in the file I mentioned did not refer to what you refer to as “how hard they try, it goes nowhere”. What it referred to was that many didn’t even try. Many didn’t know how, and they didn’t do anything or waited for others to help.

From the little experience I have working with underprivileged communities, especially the urban poor in Jakarta, I must say it’s not very encouraging. I may be very pessimistic, but if this makes me see the reality of the problem, it will help me in trying to help in whichever way I can. And I think help is needed because I’ve been asked by some of them, not because I think they need to be helped.

I just think it’s better than thinking that Indonesians have no flaws in their traits and thus making ourselves living in illusion. But if I am wrong, all the better. The question is, why do you think Indonesia is the way it is?

spew-it-all said...

Thanks for the clarification although i still dispute the notion of lacking attitude to grow.
It is a complicated matter i believe and seems to be spurious if we reduce it to the behaviour itself.

I still believe that poverty is a matter of system exacerbated by other factors. One factor that i believe contributing to the cause is violence.

Since New Order came to power in 65 after the blooshed, the policy on lands has changed. Many farmers used to have their own lands. When these farmers were arrested or murdered, it significantly impacted on the families' life. Some of them might have sold their lands, some would have chosen to move and abandon the lands. Any attempts to reclaim it will be associated with communism.

It might be interesting to see the economic condition in the region after the communist purge took place.

I visited two villages in Jember 7 years ago where there was a dispute over land between farmers and companies. The farmers lose and they had to go to the city and found any available jobs.

Another examples are the families victims of May Riot in 1998 (those who were burnt to death in shopping centres). Having worked with them for five years, i learnt that they migrated to Jakarta because they thought there was no options left after they sold their lands.

Perhaps, pervasive corruption, poor education system, the legacy of centralistic government are amongst other things which make Indonesia fucked up.

Dewi Susanti said...

I agree with your points on corruption, education, and leadership. But how would you explain the violence?

Let's change the point of views: would you agree that highly motivated and competitive communities do fare better in this present world?

For example, China has undergone similar problems with corruption and repressive leadership, although culturally the Chinese has always put high value in education. What makes them able to fare better than Indonesia?

spew-it-all said...

How would i explain the violence? violence that took place in many part of Indonesia obviously contributed to the deteriorating economic condition.

Imagine what happen to farmers families who have to be internally displaced person? They are separated from their subsistence. You find this in Aceh, East Timor, Poso, Ambon, Kalimantan even Java. In Poso, some rich farmers could pay Brimob as their guide every time they are going to see their plantation. What happened to petty farmers?

Survivors of 1965 give us another example. Since Suharto prevented them to be engaged in political activity as well as working in governmental departement, there were no much room left for them. Most of them are well-educated people, earned their degree from overseas.

So do you think they do not have the sense of competitiveness? Give me a break, their survival clearly indicates that they have that sense. What are you getting at by asking me that question? Are you trying to say that communities in Indonesia do not have competitive spirit?

I recommend you exploring more about the connection between violence and poverty in Indonesia. I get the impression that you have a typical middle-class perspective on this matter, suggesting poor people do not have the sense of competitiveness. Correct me if i am wrong. But if it is true, well i am witnessing the repetition of history when middle class in England in 19th belittled working class.

spew-it-all said...

As for the contrast and comparison with China, i must admit it that i am not knowledgable enough in Chinese history, politics and culture.

But if you think that Indonesians do not regard education as important as Chinese people do, you should again talk to IDPs and poor people. Does it bother them to see their children staying at home while the others kids are going to school?

What was the reason when your parents sent you to school? I hope they were not inspired by Chinese culture. Some people whom i spoke with said that they want their children going to school although they did not know how to pay the tuition. They are aware that education is important. Often they said: "I am poor and not well-educated but i don't want my children like me. I want them to have a better education than me". I am sure they did not read a book about Chinese culture and its development when they said this.

Dewi Susanti said...

In the 'school' I mentioned here, I was informed by the 'teachers' that some of the parents don't really care whether their children go to school or not. If they don't want to, then it's alright. Religious classes, though, are of stronger emphasis and higher attendance.

Parents of EBPP's children I mentioned in my first response to this post though, are a lot more aware of the importance of education. There's definite difference between urban and rural poor and attitude.

Dewi Susanti said...

Should have been clear that what I meant in the previous post is that of course I don't mean the Chinese inspired the desire to educate for all parents throughout the world.

I'm just saying that some cultures and communities put higher emphasis on education than others. There was an article in a leading newspaper (either Kompas or Jakarta Post) a while back ago that indicated among the Indonesian ethnic groups, the Chinese and the Batak people have higher priorities in education.

spew-it-all said...

Dewi, all my postings are still in the context of disputing the attitude as a factor that makes Indonesia fucked up. I could not find the argument convincing enough. It is kind of generalisation.

You said that many didn't even try and didn't know where to start and waited for help. Why they did not try? Why they didn't know where to start? Lack of information, perhaps? But hello, how accessible was the information? It seems to me that the article you've got from attachment, does not deepen the analysis and does not link them to other aspects. History is of course important in this regard.

Sorry i got the impression that you like to contrast Indonesia and China in term of their values on education. And this example was provided in order to support the previous premise: competitiveness and highly motivated communities do fare better, wasnt it?

Then i said that poor people be they urban or rural do have that sense. But the problem is their opportunities to enhance the economic condition is limited. They can't afford education and have no money to do something else.

If education may do the trick, i reckon it is better not to focus much on the formal one. There should be acknowledgement for informal one.

Based on my experience working with urban poor (families victims), we need to understand their pragmatic view in term of education. If i learn math, could i my economic condition be better off? If i learn how to make soap and other skills, will that be helpful?

Once my friend and i worked to build a koperasi for victims communities. We tried to collect second hand stuff and sold them again (like Salvation Army) but it was time consuming for them as the works required them to give up their dead-end jobs.

Denica said...

"I propose selling as much as possible of Indonesia's natural wealth to Singapore."

are you seriously suggesting that?

indonesia has suffered profoundly from the sales of its sand to singapore. our nation has decreased its size to the benefit of a developed nation.

we are being exploited of our own natural resources because

1. we needed the money

2. people with power prefer just to sell it because it would benefit them

all im concerned now is the incredibly fast pace of environmental degradation which threatens the possible intergenerational equity in this forsaken nation.

and now singapore is slightly offended by the new policy to ban sand export (legally, but not for those cheaters) and this may harm indonesia's political relation with singapore. probably because singapore may face potential inflation for land value because there's simply no more land to produce housings.

but still, i propose selling only some of indonesia's renewable natural wealth to other nations.

Dewi Susanti said...

First of, John, I hope you don't mind us flooding your post. Let us know if you do.

Citu, I just noted that you also responded to question about violence. I disagree with you that deteriorating economic condition is the only contributing factor that could explain violence that has happened throughout Indonesia’s history. I don’t think there’s ever one sole factor for explaining any phenomena. In the case of violence, politics, religious, spiritual and cultural beliefs, survival for food and conflict for land are among the contributing factors. I asked about the violence simply because in your initial response on this subject, I didn’t know how it connected to the others.

Likewise, I don’t think there is one sole factor for explaining the Indonesian situation. In my initial response to this post, I also mentioned economic condition (which affects access to information) and education. From the examples that I mentioned in later responses, it should be clear that I didn’t lump all Indonesians into one generalization (as, to borrow from Ben Anderson, there’s no such thing as Indonesia but rather it’s an ‘imagined community’) and neither did I lump all Indonesian communities under the same ‘lacking in attitude to grow’ category.

The attachment I mentioned did not elaborate on what attitude meant in the phrase under dispute. But there are many contributing factors to attitude, some are externals and some are internals. The external ones include culture, social, environment, family, and educational backgrounds, and how much one is being influenced by these externalities. Implicit within these externalities are historical factors you mentioned (be it history of a culture, community or family).

Then there are internal factors, such as perceptual, intellectual, and emotional abilities of a person that form one’s attitude towards life. Here, personal history also takes on an important role. What you mentioned as giving a pragmatic view is a way of connecting with one’s internal factors. Having the knowledge on how education can open up many opportunities related directly to one’s life is more likely to motivate one to learn.

As part of family background for example, children brought up in educated families are more likely to be educated as equal as, but more likely to surpass, their parents. But then there are individual examples, like Mozart and Beethoven and many others, who defy their family and social backgrounds.

It’s just that in some of the communities (from all social backgrounds) I’ve been working with in the field of education throughout the years in Indonesia, even with all external resources (access to education, information, supporting environment) working in their favors, I have found it difficult to penetrate the barrier in improving one’s attitude towards learning. And it has a lot to do with how education has been delivered which has also influenced personal and cultural behavior towards education.

johnorford said...

Hey Dewi, It's not a problem at all, I am happy you are discussing it here, will have to read over the comments again to see if I have anything to add.

Denica, well I never recommended giving natural resources away, sell them and then politicians should stop worrying about them -- and focus on the PEOPLE! Much more important than grains of sand or whatnot.

spew-it-all said...

I think there is misunderstanding here. I began to look at how violence contributed to deteriorating economic condition. Why did I begin with violence? The original post was talking about poverty in Indonesia, not education. Then as discussion flows, education was mentioned as the likely remedy to multidimensional crisis affecting Indonesia. Yet your latest riposte seems to suggest the other way around. It was clear from my previous post that violence undeniably plays important role in worsening economic condition. I am not intending to repeat myself so I could prevail upon you to look at again my previous post and place it in the right context.

As for education I agree that family background is essential but not a single driving factor. I think it is pertinent to link the value of education with the concept of modernity. As the traditional structure breaks down, education replaced nobility as social characteristic. Modern education was brought in parallel with industrialisation by Dutch. But only upper classes were allowed to get a higher education. I am suggesting that in historical perspective, there has not been a widely accessible education for people in Indonesia. Once during Old Order, the communist party emphasised education for people based on community basis. But that was linked to their political agenda and the program of mass education waned following the birth of New Order.

It seems that you did not fully agree with the attachment but this was not clearly expressed in previous post. Back paddling? I hope not. So in what context then you cited that theory in early discussion?

I am not yet convinced that cultural factors are essential in perceiving education as the priority. The reason why people are not interested in education varies. I have a friend who is super rich. But he and his brother did not want to go to school, although their parents are well-educated. If education is believed to be the key to enhance economic condition, his affluence will dispute this view.

The direction of this discussion has moved from poverty to education. My responses were directed to the original topic, poverty.

Dewi Susanti said...

Citu, I’m not an economist. So when I read posting such as this, I’m placing it in bigger context of Indonesia. So I read violence not only in relation to economic condition in Indonesia, but also Indonesia’s overall condition. Likewise with my comment on attitude. I should have made my background and my positioning in relation to the context clear.

My comment on attitude was made in passing, as John’s post reminded me of that attachment, and it was not a theory. Frankly, I was surprised with how angry you were with your comments. But I think because of my experiences in education, my understanding on the word attitude is different from the simplified version of the attachment, and I hope I have made this clear in the previous comment.

In the case of your friend and his brother, again I already mentioned in my previous comment that variations and deviations (as in the case of Beethoven and Mozart) do occur. And I also mentioned that cultural factors are not the only essential factor that contributes to one’s attitude to education and to life (to bring it back to Indonesia’s economical situation and its bigger context of Indonesia).

It seems that you tend to read things in either/or, rather than both/and paradigm; if this it must be that or if not this it must not be that. But I don’t want to start another fire :) I think we’ve explained our views enough for now.

spew-it-all said...

Sorry if you find an agressive tone in my posting.

Am i angry? Honestly little bit annoyed with any generalisation. I may misunderstand you regarding the attachment.

Frankly, i am not intending to have confrontation with you. But your response seemed to be generalising a very complex situation. I know i can be wrong and i will accept that.

Many times i heard people talking about poor people or sometimes just people but in very condescending way. Some example will be blaming people for being barbaric when violence took place, telling how sick our society is, judging how lazy the poor people are and so on.
Having fed up with this kind of view, i tend to get agitated when people tried to say rather similar thing about poor people. So i am angry because i get the sense that you seemed to talk with condescending tone. Again i can be wrong here.

You know how frustrated we are who work for community and found that these 'barbaric' people can do something better but then were used for political purposes. And the next day middle class in Jakarta, made comments about these poor people.

I've never worked for education but only worked for victims' families to build sustainable community. From this experience, i learnt alot about violence in Indonesia and the significant impact on their economic conditions.

Dewi, i am contradicting myself if i tend to read anything black and white or using either/or paradigm since my background is a history student. You know that there is no black and white in history.

Thanks for the responses and explaining your position.

johnorford said...

hey guys, i lost track of the whole thread of the argument.

anyway if either of you could put me in touch with some community activists that can explain to me more about these issues while i am in Jkt, i would be v grateful -- i need to learn more.


Dewi Susanti said...

Citu: Yes, I get the sense that your past experiences make you rather biased against middle class and any generalizing comments against the poor. I hope it’s clear that my comments are more general than aiming towards the poor. My stand came from my own frustrations with the groups I’ve worked with and their lack of motivation to learn and to compete.

I think you are as generalizing as I am about the point on violence and its contribution to an economic situation. Of course all areas and communities being disrupted by violence are most likely impacted on their economics. I agree with you on this point. But how many percent of Indonesia is being disrupted by violence? Not the majority for sure. Therefore, I don’t think violence can explain the overall condition of Indonesia’s economic situation. But I enjoyed having this debate with you, and I’m sure this will continue onwards.

John: I can hook you up with several NGOs. I am currently working with Urban Poor Consortium, which is probably one of the biggest NGO in Indonesia in terms or its networks and scope of area. UPC focuses on 18 communities in Jakarta, as well as other areas throughout Indonesia. Another would be Sanggar Ciliwung, which focuses on work with communities in Bukit Duri, one of the most troubled areas in Jakarta. There are several others depending on your interest. Drop me an e-mail.

johnorford said...

ok i've reread the comments twice again.

i don't have much to add, only that people generally live optimally within the contexts of their daily lives.

when outsiders see these people and scoff or whatever, they just show their own utter ignorance.

i am not saying the poor can't improve their lot, but it can only be improved by understanding the context within which people live.

sounds like you would both agree with that(?)


jeez this blogging is tough work, this argument could've been easily sorted out over a meal and a few drinks.