I often over hear my flatmate and her pals talking about men.
They dissect every detail when it comes to men they are interested in. Every word, every inflection is examined in minute detail.
Does this increase their understanding of menkind?
No. Cos we men are a bit thick, so we say stuff that we do not think over, stuff just comes out.
I saw the first ten minutes of 'He's Just not that into You' coming back from Germany on the plane last weekend. Awful movie, but from what I could make out, the central idea is pretty sound: no need to over analyse, men are pretty bloody straight forward beings.
Thing is, I think it's the same thing when it comes to foreigners thinking about Indonesians. Sure Indonesians have foibles, but the basics are the same. Foreigners try to over analyse, in an effort to make up for their lack of language skills and lack of experience. They take small samples of behaviour and extrapolate using all of their considerable cognitive powers.
Do long term expat analysers of Indonesia have much greater insight than your average open minded back packer off the boat from Singapore? I doubt it.
While Indonesians are of course Indonesian, they are also people first and foremost (i.e. not some strain of alien life form). It strikes me that not only do many expats bark up the wrong tree when it comes to understanding Indonesians, their analysis smells like Edward Said's Orientalism.